The findings are important because better understanding of badger movements is essential when trying to model how infection is maintained and spread within badger populations. It is also essential when trying to design policies to tackle tuberculosis within cattle populations.
"These data could be used during the design of intervention strategies aimed at stopping the spatial spread of infection across badger populations. One approach could be to vaccinate badgers across a strip creating a 'cordon sanitaire' or a biological barrier to infected badgers immigrating into a disease-free area. Our data could be used to estimate an appropriate effective width for such a barrier," says Dr Byrne.
The authors recognised that population density could be an important factor affecting movement lengths. Looking at studies from across Europe, the authors found that study area size could have limited the ability to record rare long-distance movements, but there was tendency for shorter movements reported in high-density populations.
The movement study is part of a larger project investigating the impact of orally administered vaccination on bTB levels, funded by the Republic of Ireland Department of Agriculture. The study is now looking at the bTB status of the badgers that make long-distance movements.
"We now want to find out if badgers that make long-distance movements in this population are also those with a greater probability of being TB positive. If so, even though these events are rare, they could have a disproportionate effect on the spread of infection," he says.
|Contact: Becky Allen|