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In this paper we use mathematical modelling to consider the broad advantages and disadvantages of fertility control over lethal control for bovine tuberculosis in badger populations. We use a deliberately simple model, attempting to capture only the key transmission processes. The model is parametrized with reference to the long-term Woodchester Park study. Estimates of mortality rate from this study suggest no significant extra mortality risk for animals with evidence of infection as indicated by the presence of anti-Mycobacterium bovis antibodies or M. bovis isolation. We find that large reductions in prevalence are sometimes the consequence of only moderate reductions in population numbers. If we assume that the act of control does not in itself affect transmission rates, then as far as eradication is concerned, both fertility control and mortality control operate through the same epidemiological mechanism, the removal of susceptibles: if one is in principle capable of keeping a population low enough to be infection free then so is the other. It is necessary to continue either form of control at regular intervals to maintain a constant level of infection in the long term. If control were to be stopped, return to precontrol levels of badger population and infection prevalence would be expected within a few years. Fertility control is less effective in reducing population density than lethal control since it can only act, at maximum, to remove one age cohort per year. It is also less effective in reducing transmission as it can only ever remove susceptibles, while lethal control also removes infectious badgers. However, if the social disturbance caused by lethal control does in fact increase contact rates for the remaining infectious badgers, the relative efficacies of the two strategies become a great deal less clear. While we have no quantitative data on the extent to which social perturbation does act to promote transmission, model simulations show that it is possible to develop plausible scenarios in which the lethal control may actually act to increase the absolute numbers of animals infected, while reducing the number of uninfected animals to very low numbers.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





619 - 631


Animals, Animals, Wild, Birth Rate, Cattle, Disease Transmission, Infectious, Emigration and Immigration, Fertility, Models, Biological, Mortality, Pest Control, Population Control, Population Density, Tuberculosis, Bovine