WILDLIFE lovers are urging the public to support Oxfordshire’s population of badgers following the Government’s extension of the controversial cull, writes Tim Hughes

Admirers of the elusive native mammal are calling for greater appreciation of the animals following last Thursday’s National Badger Day, fearing more than 75,000 badgers could be killed this year including over 2,500 in Oxfordshire.

The cull, which has been widely condemned by scientists, conservationists and animal lovers, is intended to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

Oxfordshire Badger Group instead advocates a programme of vaccination, and its volunteers have been trapping, vaccinating and releasing badgers in the county.

A spokeswoman for the group said: “This is a time when groups around the country are celebrating one of the most iconic and much loved wildlife species in our countryside.

Oxford Mail: Oxfordshire Badger Group trap a badger for vaccination

Oxfordshire Badger Group trap a badger for vaccination

“Oxfordshire Badger Group has been protecting the welfare and conservation of Oxfordshire’s badgers for 30 years, advising the public, landowners, and councils. We are often called to rescue injured badgers and work closely with local wildlife rescue groups, as well as offering training days for members of the public who are keen to get involved in badger conservation.

“This is the third successful year of OBG’s badger vaccination programme made possible by the support and donations of the public and dedication of a team of volunteers. We work with farmers, landowners and other wildlife groups to deliver free vaccination for badgers and the scheme is growing each year. We believe that controlling the disease in the herd is the only effective way forward to control BTb in cattle. Despite assurances to phase out the costly, cruel and unscientific badger cull, the Government continues to issue new cull licences.

“Over 75,000 badgers could be killed this year including over 2,500 in this county which is more than double the numbers killed in 2020.

“Badgers have been part of our countryside for hundreds of years and are protected by law. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in persecution and ask members of the public to report crime or any suspicious activity. We would also welcome volunteers to be badger guardians and keep an eye on their local sett. In an increasingly nature depleted countryside, we want people to join with us to celebrate and protect Oxfordshire’s beautiful badgers.”

Oxford Mail: Oxfordshire Badger Group - badger handling training day

Oxfordshire Badger Group - badger handling training day

Wildlife expert Sean McMenemy called for greater understanding of the distinctive black and white animals, saying: “For many of us, our reference to badgers is associated with beloved characters from our childhood – the wise, old grandfather figures in Wind and the Willows or The Animals of Farthing Wood: kind, compassionate and dependable. In recent years, badgers might have come to our attention due the badger culling debate.

“Badgers, they are part of Britain’s natural history. A study by Yates found that badgers have been around in Britain for half a million years, so it is no wonder that they are depicted as wise old characters.”

“About 25 per cent of the European badger population is found in the UK, so we have an international duty to protect them. Today, badgers are protected by law in the UK, which shows what a valued species they are. They are vital to the wider ecosystem — helping smaller animals who use their tunnels and spreading seeds that help plants to grow and flourish across broad areas.”