Bovine TB

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

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.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare)

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, 26 January 2004, Hansard, column 1W, my Department has been funding the Winter Mammal Monitoring Project 3 which is being carried out by the Mammal Society and the British Trust for Ornithology. This is a pilot study intended to develop a terrestrial monitoring system for British mammals, including badgers. Early findings confirm the pattern of distribution reported in the National Badger Survey, but it is too early to say whether, and by how much, badger numbers have changed since the 1990s.

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

2 "Changes in the British badger population, 1988 to 1997" (1997). G. Wilson, S. Harris and G. McLaren. People's Trust for Endangered Species (ISBN 1 85580 018 7)

3 Further details and preliminary results from the Winter Mammal Monitoring Project are available online at: www. bto.org/survey/special/mammal results.htm

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