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How well do farmers know their badgers? Relating farmer knowledge to ecological survey data
  1. A. Robertson, BSc, MSc, PhD1,
  2. R. J. Delahay, BSc, PhD1,
  3. G. J. Wilson, BSc, PhD1,
  4. I. J. Vernon, BSc1,
  5. R. A. McDonald, BSc, PhD2 and
  6. J. Judge, BSc, PhD3
  1. 1National Wildlife Management Centre, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Woodchester Park, Nympsfield, Gloucestershire GL10 3UJ, UK
  2. 2Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK
  3. 3Biocensus Limited, The Malt House, 17–20 Sydney Buildings, Bath BA2 6BZ, UK
  4. 4A. Robertson also at Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9EZ, UK
  5. 5G. J. Wilson also at Biocensus Limited, The Malt House, 17–20 Sydney Buildings, Bath BA2 6BZ, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence: a.robertson{at}exeter.ac.uk

Abstract

Knowledge of badger distribution is important for the management of bovine tuberculosis. At the farm level, typically the only information on badger activity available is from the farmers themselves. This study compares how well farmer perceptions of badger activity match data obtained from ecological surveys. Farmer estimates of numbers of badger setts (burrows) surrounding their farms were generally correlated with field survey results, but tended to be underestimates. Farmers correctly recorded 50 per cent of setts recorded in surveys, with larger setts and active setts more likely to be correctly recorded. Badger visits to farm buildings and yards were also monitored using surveillance cameras. The majority of farmers were aware of badger visits to their farm buildings, but in 22 per cent of cases farmers were not aware of badger visits. At the farm level, knowledge of badger activity will be useful in informing vets and animal health professionals of the potential risks of disease transmission, and hence directing management interventions. However, the tendency to underestimate activity, combined with a lack of detailed knowledge of sett locations, means that farmer estimates of badger activity should be interpreted with caution and in isolation may not be sufficient to inform management interventions.

  • Bovine tuberculosis
  • Badgers
  • bTB
  • Wildlife
  • Accepted September 22, 2016.

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