To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(1) what assessment she has made of the accuracy of the size of the badger population in Great Britain as reported by the National Badger Survey;
(2) what estimate she has made of the minimum size of the badger population in the United Kingdom necessary to ensure its continued survival;
(3) what estimate she has made of the optimum size of the badger population in the United Kingdom;
(4) what estimate she has made of the maximum size of badger population which can be sustained in the United Kingdom;
(5) what estimate she has made of the change in the badger population in Great Britain since the last National Badger Survey.
In a 1995 1 report reviewing the status of mammals in the United Kingdom, commissioned by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the badger population estimate provided by the 1980s National Badger Survey was given the highest possible rating for accuracy (one on a scale of one to five, where one is the most accurate). As the 1990s National Badger Survey 2 followed the same methodology as the earlier exercise, its results can be afforded a similar high level of confidence.
I can confirm that the Department has not estimated any of the following population parameters for badgers in the United Kingdom:
The minimum population size necessary to ensure its continued survival.
The optimum size of the population.
The maximum size of population that can be sustained.
In the report of the 1990s National Badger Survey 2 , the authors concluded that there was "substantial scope for further badger population expansions" as badger setts were still scarce or absent in many suitable areas (especially in East Anglia and parts of Scotland). However, the authors also said that "in areas with established badger populations, it was unlikely that further significant increases would occur".
Since there has been no national badger survey since the mid-1990s, we do not know whether the population level has changed in the interim.
As I explained in my reply to the hon. Member's earlier question,
1 "A review of British mammals: population estimates and conservation status of British mammals other than cetaceans" (1995). Stephen Harris, Pat Morris, Stephanie Wray and Derek Yalden. Published by the Joint Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough, UK.
This publication is available online at: www.jncc.gov.uk/Publications/review britishmammals/areviewofbritishmammalsall. pdf
3 Further details and preliminary results from the Winter Mammal Monitoring Project are available online at: www. bto.org/survey/special/mammal results.htm