Help us protect the badgers of Castle Woods

Andrew Crace-Calvert vaccinating a badger

Andrew Crace-Calvert vaccinating a badger

Badger vaccination 2019 - please donate to help us raise the last £3000 to complete our programme!

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) has been vaccinating badgers against bovine TB in Castle Woods, Carmarthenshire since 2014.

The vaccination is a five year programme, but had to be paused in 2016-17 due to a global vaccination shortage. We resumed our efforts last year, and have just completed our fourth session this month. The work at Castle Woods will help to protect the resident badger population against the disease, and contribute to the benefits of the many other cattle-based and farm biosecurity measures already in place to help protect cattle in the local area from TB.

This year’s vaccination took place in the third week of August, with traps set at seven locations around our woods, based on maps of sett entrances and badger activity in the reserve. WTSWW works with our expert contractor, Andrew Crace-Calvert from EcoCon, who holds all the licences necessary for the work; vaccination is a tightly controlled exercise, and the vaccine is supplied direct from Welsh Government. EcoCon offer nationwide contract badger vaccination services to the agricultural and environmental sectors.

We caught a total of 14 individual badgers this year; the total numbers of animals in the reserve seemed to be low again but encouragingly, 11 of the 14 were this year’s cubs- catching young animals increases the effectiveness of the vaccination programme and shows the social groups are breeding well. Badgers had a tough year in 2018 due to the very dry weather in the cub rearing period, with many young animals apparently being unable to dig through the hard soil to find food, but this year’s young seemed in good health.

It’s always a fascinating programme to be part of. The heavy traps have to be carried up and down the steep woods to areas of greatest badger activity. Then they are left in place for a number of days, tied open, with bait regularly placed in the traps and their immediate surroundings. This ensures the badgers get used to going into the traps, prior to two nights setting the traps to catch in each area. The badgers are utterly unconcerned by the injection itself – sometimes they don’t even seem to notice!

Five animals were also caught two nights in a row, demonstrating that their love of peanuts outweighed anything else about the traps. One particularly young and agile young male that we caught was a budding gymnast, playing in the trap and even hanging off the roof of the cage; it was hard not to interpret it as showing off. It’s great to see how unconcerned they are by the whole process.

We have one more year of vaccination to complete (in 2020), to be confident that our badger population is as protected from the disease as it can be- also helping to safeguard cattle in the area, including the National Trust’s rare breed White Park cattle in Dinefwr Park. The work is 50% funded by Welsh Government, but we still need to raise a total of £3000 to complete the programme successfully.

Please donate if you can, and spread the word.

It is really easy to donate, either post a cheque (with a note to say it is for the ‘Badger Vaccination Appeal’) to WTSWW, The Nature Centre, Fountain Road, Tondu, Bridgend CF32 0EH. Alternatively, call 01656 724100 to donate via telephone.

If we are lucky enough to raise more than we need to complete our programme, any extra funds will be donated to other badger vaccination programmes in Wales.

Thank you so much for your help, and we look forward to reporting on a successful completion to the project next year!