Fact-based scientifically-accurate educational information about Badgers
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Research Ideas 11 to 15

Badger Encounters in the Wild book Badger Encounters in the Wild Jim Crumley [Book]
Superb book of Jim Crumley's encounters with badgers in the wild in Scotland. The quality of the writing is superb. A great  read. Click here to buy:
Encounters in the wild
Here are some research or discussion ideas for further study.

11. Targeting for TB reduction

Research has shown that most mammals with tuberculosis vary in their level of infectivity. The animals are not very infective in the early stages of the disease. However, as the disease takes hold, it is believed that their level of infectivity slowly rises.

  • Assuming that you want to try and reduce the incidence of tuberculosis in the wild badger population; what information would you need to know in order to assess whether a cull of badgers should be confined to older animals aged more than, say four years old?

12. Organic Immunity

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cattle herds which are organic (or those which are very close to gaining true organic status), have a lower level of bovine tuberculosis.

  • Assuming that the low level of bovine tuberculosis is a statistically significant result, how would you go about isolating those factors in the organic lifestyle that seem to make these cattle "immune" to tuberculosis infections?

13. Cheap Badger Deterrents?

It has been suggested that badgers are very reluctant to enter into a garden if they come across the smell of human male urine around the area where they normally enter the garden. Potentially, this might be a cheap way of preventing badgers from wrecking people's gardens.

  • Discuss what scientific methods you would take, if you were conducting an experiment to determine whether human male urine deters badgers to any significant degree.

14. Climate Change

It is generally believed that the climate is slowly becoming warmer, with hotter summers, warmer winters and more extreme storms.

Conditions of extreme cold can prove fatal for skin and fur-based parasites (like fleas, lice and ticks). Sadly, too extreme cold periods can also reduce the numbers of badgers which survive through the winter. This can be especially bad for cubs, who may not have had enough time to achieve a viable body-weight to survive the lean winter months.

In some species (like egg-laying turtles and crocodiles/alligators), the proportion of male to female hatchlings alters as the temperature varies during conception and development.

If too few badgers die, then their numbers can rise to meet the maximum number that can be fed from a particular territory. If numbers rise further still, is it likely that some badgers will die through starvation or internal squabbling for food, or is it more likely that the badgers will slowly reduce in size and weight, in line with the reduced food per head that is available as badger numbers increase.

Of course, long periods of high temperatures or low rainfall, can make earthworms, the badgers' staple food source, very scarce; which causes reductions in the numbers of surviving badgers and their cubs.

What effect is the increasingly warm climate likely to have on badger populations, in terms of basic survivability, general health and aggressiveness towards one another as food sources become relatively more scarce.

How would you test whether the proportions of male and female badgers is changing as the climate grows warmer.

15. Genetic Differences

Geneticists have suggested that in order to avoid damaging inbreeding or too small a gene pool, communal living animals, such as badgers need to eject key specimens and allow new "blood" to enter their gene pool.

  • How might you assess the extent to which a particular clan was more or less inbred than neighbouring clans?
  • Assess how you might track the genetic influence of a single individual badger, to see how often its genetic material turns up in descendants in its own and adjacent clans, as well as those further afield.
  • Assess the extent to which traits, such as an enhanced immunity to TB, might become dominant or recessive throughout the badger population.
  • Assess the extent to which the sterilization of infected individual badgers might result in a reduction in the overall level of TB infectivity in the badger population. Would this make any difference, if you only sterilised infected females?
  • Assess the speed at which particular traits might transfer across the countryside.
  • Form a view on whether introducing so-called TB-immune badgers into a badger-population might have a beneficial effect on reducing the incidence of TB in badgers.