Farm Ireland

Thursday 27 October 2016

Roaming badgers can cover hundreds of kilometres per year

Published 16/08/2016 | 02:30

Badgers can cover large distances
Badgers can cover large distances

By virtue of the billions that have been spent on trying to eradicate TB, badgers are now one of the best studied animals in the country.

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Scientists have tracked their every move in an effort to understand the creature's role in the spread of TB.

Some of the results have been startling. One badger, nicknamed Ray by researchers, emerged from his sett one evening at 9pm only to embark upon an impressive 12.5km trip that saw him covering up to 5km per hour before he returned to his home six hours later.

Another badger called Olivia rachetted up a massive 180km in 11 weeks that brought it into several different social groupings and indeed, different counties.

On average, researchers found that males confine themselves to three to four farms per year, and travel no more than 2km per night. Despite popular belief, the studies also indicated that badgers actively avoided farmyards.

Ireland has a dense badger population compared to international averages, with the ready availability of ideal habitats such as hedges, which is in complete contrast with vast tracts of Continental Europe and the US.

However, scientists are also convinced that we do not need to eradicate badgers to eradicate TB. Instead, they believe that it needs to be reduced to a 'threshold' level that would allow healthy badgers to co-exist with the 6.5m strong cattle herd.

While deer have also featured in relation to TB, especially in certain parts of Wicklow, scientists believe that it is the badger that is driving disease levels in the wild.

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