The Somerset pilot badger cull has now completed.
Current indications suggest that the pilot has been safe, humane and effective in delivering a reduction in the badger population of just under 60 per cent. The Chief Veterinary Officer has advised that this reduction will deliver clear disease benefits as part of a four year cull.
Natural England is currently considering an application from the cull company for a short extension of two to three weeks so as to maximise the disease control benefits achieved in this first year. We expect Natural England to make a decision on the application to extend the application in the next few days. The advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer is that further increasing the number of badgers culled would improve those benefits even further and enable them to accrue earlier.
Immediately prior to the start of the two pilots, extensive hair trapping took place in both areas to provide a robust and up to date estimate of the badger population within the two cull areas.
The results of this latest hair-trapping exercise show that the estimated number of badgers is significantly fewer in both areas compared to last summer when the last hair-trapping was done.
In Somerset the latest population estimate is 1,450 compared to 2,400 last year, and in Gloucestershire 2,350 compared to 3,400.
We understand that the cull company in Gloucestershire will also be applying for a licence extension to Natural England today.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson updated Parliament today on the end of the Somerset cull. You can read a copy of the written ministerial statement on the Parliament website