Friday, January 23, 2015

Record Numbers in the Hedge

This is a repost from 2007. See side bar to this blog to order this, and other designs, on T-shirts, etc. All money goes to support terrier rescue.

AMERICA IS BLESSED with many kinds of quarry
that can be worked by terriers year round: groundhog, raccoon, red fox, possum, gray fox, and badger.

Most terrier quarry is at record levels of abundance, and most folks in the Eastern U.S. and Midwest live within a half hour of excellent hunting opportunities.

Groundhog populations, for example, are much higher now than they were in Colonial times when most of the Eastern U.S. and Midwest was forested. Red fox, of course, is an import, while raccoon populations today are 15 to 20 times larger than they were in the 1930s.

In the U.K. wildlife in the hedge is also doing remarkably well and is at record levels.

Red fox populations, for example, now appear to be at the limits of biological density, with the Mammal Society estimating the late-December fox population to be stable at about 250,000, with about 14% of this population in urban locations.

In the Spring, of course, the fox population of the U.K. soars, with the addition of about 425,000 fox kits, but large numbers of these cubs subsequently die from disease or starvation, while later in the year fox numbers are also thinned by vehicle impact (estimated at 100,000 a year), shooting (estimated at 80,000 a year) and hunting with dogs (estimated at about 20,000 a year in 2004 before the so-called "ban" went into effect). In his excellent book "Running with the Foxes," wildlife biologist David MacDonald has noted that "foxhunting is of minor significance to foxes in particular, or amongst wildlife issues generally."

Red fox population growth, U.K., 1961-2000

As for badger, the Mammal Society reports that there are now more badger in the U.K. than red fox -- an astounding thing considering that red fox are now so common as to be seen as a bit of an urban plague in the U.K.

British badger populations also appears to be at their biological limits, with little or no growth in numbers in recent years, and mortality accomplished chiefly by disease, starvation, vehicle impacts. In addition, DEFRA -- the Department of Environment, Farms and Rural Affairs -- routinely gasses thousands of badgers a year (and has been doing so for more than 30 years) in an effort to eradicate the animals from areas where bovine tuberculosis is a worry.


Dan said...

Actually, the situation with badgers is a little more complex. Back in the late 1990s, the Labour Party, then headed by a certain Tony Blair, had some problems, chief of which was how to prevent the members of this party from losing another election. Doing this took money, so Blair took donations from a wide range of dubious sources.

One such source was an animal rights organisation, which wanted to see an end to the gassing of badgers. True to his word, Blair phased this out and in response, the badger population boomed. Lagging slightly behind, the levels of bovine tuberculosis in the badger population also boomed, going from a very minor problem controlled by targeted gassing, to the major epidemic we have today.

Current efforts to control this epidemic are limited to shooting badgers, a control tactic only eclipsed in stupidity by the vaccination of badgers against bTB, (which DEFRA have demonstrated doesn't prevent infection of badgers by TB).

A Mexican stand-off has now ensued in the South-West of Britain, between well-meaning protesters angry at the killing of badgers, and pretty much everyone else in the area who think that they are a plague and would love to see the back of them. In addition to these measures, there is a low level of illegal badger digging, some shooting and likely a certain amount of badger poisoning going on as well, helped by the fact that a sick badger generally goes home to its burrow to try to sleep off a sickness, and thus dies out of sight underground.

Methyl bromide gas has been banned. Hydrogen cyanide has been banned, as has Cymag (sodium cyanide powder plus a weak acid). Carbon monoxide gassing hasn't yet been banned, and is the candidate gas of choice, whenever DEFRA cease sitting on their hands and decide to tackle the problem properly.

PBurns said...

THANKS for the update Dan! If only they had as much concern about the badgers are the cattle!