"... identified behavioural differences between badgers excreting m. bovis and uninfected animals. Badgers excreting m.bovis had larger home ranges, and were more likely to visit farm buildings." [ Col 684W 23rd. March 2004 ]And the diminutive John Bourne appeared to agree with this, commenting in the ISG Final Report that:
.. infected badgers appear to range more widely and disperse further than uninfected animals (Garnett et al 2005; Pope et al 2007)So where do these illustrious researchers, professors and academics think such badgers go? Although they flit around the word 'dispersed', they do not appear to associate it with homeless, disorientated and sick badgers; where do they hide? Obviously the word' hospital sett' has got the good professor rattled. He gives it a derisory whirl on p.171 of the ISG report.
In fact it gets a whole paragraph.
"It has been proposed that [TB] infection may be controlled by repeated culling of badgers in a number of 'hospital setts'. This suggestion stems from the speculation ( ??? ) that m.bovis infected badgers may be "expelled from their own setts due to disease.." [ making them] .. more likely to colonise setts vacated by other badgers, as they are too weak to dig their own" (British Veterinary Association, 2005)The paragraph goes on the say that culling such setts would be a highly 'imprecise method of removing infected badgers'.
That would be compared with, what? Doing nothing doesn't seem to be working too well, but let that pass. Defra have.
But has anyone actually seen one of these 'hospital setts'? We haven't. But a blogger on Farmers Guardian website has. And we are grateful for sight of the photo of these excavated remains of a previous occupant, with a newly enlarged hole in the background..
The bones are described in the FG piece thus " .. the skull and leg bones appear to be at least 6 months old, possibly up to year. They could be older but are certainly no less. They are the skull, femur and tibia of a 'fully mature, well grown animal as shown by the very high parietal crest on the top of the skull. The teeth are worn and from that, the animal would appear to be at least 5 years old. The height of the crest of the skull, and the width of the jaws indicate a very powerful animal, likely to be male'.
Pat Bird, the writer, explains that this 'ties in very nicely' with a new confirmed TB breakdown of her herd which began in July 2008, and is ongoing. The health and welfare of the current excavators, digging into this huge, historic and disused sett is also discussed.
Farmers Guardian has two TB bloggers, and stories from the farm of Julia Evans can be read here.