When we get permission to vaccinate on a site, our first job is to sett survey the whole site. Our team will look for key signs of badger activity such as latrines, runs, hair on stock fencing and badger setts.
Once we have found the main area of activity we will begin pre-baiting. We place piles of peanuts under stones around the areas of activity. This gives us an idea about the amount of activity in the area. We spend a week pre-baiting and slowly narrow down the amount of points to the ones that are getting taken regularly. We pre-bait the traps everyday right up to the vaccination.
At the start of the second week, we begin to bring in our DEFRA approved badger traps. These are specially made, cost £100 a trap and weigh 12kg each. We dig the traps in and cable tie them open and place them near the active bait points. We then start to move the bait points slowly into the traps, until eventually the badgers are eating the peanuts from the back of the traps. At this time, normally at the start of week 3, is when we know its time to set the traps.
The night before we vaccinate, the cable ties are removed and we string the traps up and they are set live. We vaccinate for 2 nights. At first light we arrive on site. We have 3 hours from first light to vaccinate the trapped badgers. This is to give them time to safely return to their setts. One of the team will check the traps and let the vaccinator know how many vaccines are needed. These are live vaccines and are made up on site. We use portable drugs fridges as the vaccine has to be kept between 2 and 8 degrees. The team will then approach the badger and give him a welfare check to make sure it is fit for vaccination. If they are happy they proceed with the process. Firstly the badger is vaccinated by injecting the vaccine into the thigh. We then clip a small amount of guard fur and use stock marker spray to mark the badger. This prevents us vaccinating the badger a second time during that deployment. The badger is then checked for any adverse effects and once happy, they are released.
Throughout the process, the team will disinfect everything they use from site to site. Biosecurity is taken very seriously and the team wear full protective equipment including face masks, waterproofs, gloves, goggles and boots. All equipment is sprayed down with a DEFRA approved disinfectant. We also spray our vehicles and clothes before leaving the site. Once a deployment is finished, the traps are all steam cleaned, jet washed.