The first-ever badger vaccination programme in East Sussex starts next week.
Volunteers from the Sussex Badger Vaccination Project (SBVP) have been busy pre-baiting traps over the past week and the first have now been moved into place near Uckfield.
The badgers are being vaccinated against bovine tuberculosis - a problem for farmers - and vaccination, according to wildlife experts, is the best way forward to fight it.
SBVP director Kate Edmonds said: “After initial surveys earlier this year and working out key target areas, we have been placing peanuts down, which helps us identify the best locations to trap and vaccinate on the land.”
Trevor Weeks MBE, from WRAS which is helping support the SBVP, is the lay vaccinator for the project.
He said: “Badgers are already used to taking the peanuts in a couple of areas and traps have being moved into place. We leave traps wired open for a while so they get used to entering them and don’t see them as a threat. Already some badgers have entered several of the open traps looking for peanuts.”
Depending on weather and other environmental factors SBVP will be looking at setting the traps and catching the badgers within the next 10 days at the first site.
Trevor added: “The land we are working on is not very active, but used more as a foraging site, although there are a few small setts, which are active. It is good news that we now have four sites in East Sussex where landowners have asked us to vaccinate badgers and we really appreciate them taking this initiative.”
“Because of the sensitive nature of the badger, cattle and TB issue, the SBVP is treating locations in the strictest confidence and only showing photos, video footage, or disclosing the location details with the landowners’ express permission” said Kate.
SBVP, with funding from International Animal Rescue and the Southdowns Badger Group, paid to train five lay vaccinators over 12 months and applied for and received its first licence from Natural England for cage trapping and badger vaccination this summer.
SBVP is manned by volunteers and is able to vaccinate for around £25 per badger caught, keeping the cost to landowners as low as possible. It is only able to do this thanks to fundraising and generous donations from the public.
It is seeking extra funding so the project can be expanded and a larger area covered over the next five years and is keen to hear from other cattle farmers who might be interested in having badgers on their land vaccinated from 2015.