Badger responses to small-scale culling may compromise targeted control of bovine tuberculosis
Bielby J., Donnelly CA., Pope LC., Burke T., Woodroffe R.
Significance Bovine tuberculosis (TB) killed 1,500 people annually in 1930s Britain. TB control efforts still entail slaughtering many thousands of cattle annually, costing British farmers and taxpayers millions of dollars. Transmission from wild badgers impedes control of cattle TB, but nonselective badger culls confer limited benefits because culling changes badger behavior in ways that increase disease spread. A new plan to cull only test-positive badgers, and vaccinate test-negative badgers [termed test–vaccinate/remove (TVR)], is probably more publicly acceptable, and might be more effective if culling small numbers of badgers prompts no behavioral change. Unfortunately, this study shows that small-scale culling (such as TVR) changes badgers’ behavior in ways that risk increasing TB transmission among badgers and exacerbating cattle TB incidence rather than reducing it.