Culling-induced social perturbation in Eurasian badgers Meles meles and the management of TB in cattle: an analysis of a critical problem in applied ecology.
Carter SP., Delahay RJ., Smith GC., Macdonald DW., Riordan P., Etherington TR., Pimley ER., Walker NJ., Cheeseman CL.
The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is implicated in the transmission of bovine tuberculosis (TB) to cattle in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Badger culling has been employed for the control of TB in cattle in both countries, with varying results. Social perturbation of badger populations following culling has been proposed as an explanation for the failure of culling to consistently demonstrate significant reductions in cattle TB. Field studies indicate that culling badgers may result in increased immigration into culled areas, disruption of territoriality, increased ranging and mixing between social groups. Our analysis shows that some measures of sociality may remain significantly disrupted for up to 8 years after culling. This may have epidemiological consequences because previous research has shown that even in a relatively undisturbed badger population, movements between groups are associated with increases in the incidence of Mycobacterium bovis infection. This is consistent with the results from a large-scale field trial, which demonstrated decreased benefits of culling at the edges of culled areas, and an increase in herd breakdown rates in neighbouring cattle.