27 January 2017
A new estimate of badger setts  indicates the number of badger social groups, although not the number of badgers in them, nor whether group sizes have changed between various surveys.
This study is a welcome addition to knowledge of an important aspect of ecology. It was done by trained professional surveyors and the work was funded by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Bristol University used volunteers for two earlier studies in the 1980s and ‘90s for the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.
The authors  say: “The general relationship between social group abundance and population size has not been established”. They estimate that since 1985-88 the number of social groups has increased by 103 per cent in England, but has remained relatively constant in Wales.
The Badger Trust says that if there has been a significant increase in badger numbers, it is to be celebrated as a result of the legal protection from the persecution that badgers have experienced in the past. Badger populations are naturally limited by their food supply and the population in England and Wales is returning to an equilibrium. The Protection of Badgers Act is doing its job preventing local extinction in some areas.
In the context of controlling cattle TB, the science has shown that there is no justification for killing badgers.
 Density and abundance of badger social groups in England and Wales in 2011–2013.
 Johanna Judge, Gavin J. Wilson and Richard J. Delahay of the National Wildlife Management Centre, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire, Roy Macarthur Food and Environment Research Agency, Sand Hutton, York, and Robbie A. McDonald, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall.Jack Reedy
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