Sunday, 30 September 2012

New Website - Check it Out!

My new website is now up and running, check it out here -
Massive thanks to Scott Passmore for his time, building this site for me.

Don't worry, I will still keep this blog updated with all things wildlife related in the Forest of Dean.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Help Save the Wild Boar

Wild Boar Cull Has Started

When does wildlife require management? This is one question that offers much debate, especially when it is a cute, lovable critter like the badger.
Well, over 100,000 signatures so far on the "Stop the Badger Cull" petition and a massive thank you to everyone that has taken the time to sign and share this e-petition.

Now, lets move onto another species, the Wild Boar. This animal is being culled in the Forest of Dean as we speak and for what reason? None, except to keep the minority happy and to probably meet the demanding meat quotas!
The estimation of wild boar numbers in the Forest of Dean varies wildly from 200 to 650, so from this, how can Forestry Commission Rangers (be ordered) to shoot this animal when there is no proof of realistic numbers?
It is often reported in the press that these animals are prolific breeders that can have multiple births per-year and have as many as 18 piglets per-sow. This is untrue and these wild statements are from people who keep or have kept domestic pigs in the past.
Domestic pigs can have large litters and can produce more than one litter per-year. The reason for this is they have their food supplied and usually have shelter. In short they have a luxurious lifestyle when compared to "wild" wild boar, which have to find all their own food and have to rough it, "every night", rain, sleet and snow!
A wild boar sow has a gestation period of 4 months; she then has to suckle and wean her young, which takes a further 3 months. For a "wild" wild boar sow to raise 18 piglets, recover and then do it all again in one year is near on impossible and the people making these wild claims should stop and realise their mistake.

The Forestry Commission claim there are between 600 and 650 wild boar in the Forest of Dean

Friends of the Boar claim there are between 200 and 250

So who is right and how have they come up with these figures?

Over the last year the Forestry Commission has used their rangers to log boar sightings. These sightings were mapped and then shown to Friends of the Boar.
One thing that became evident was that "ALL" sightings were logged and from this, we suspect that as many as 50% or more could  have been duplicates of boar already recorded. 
The result was a total number of between 600 & 650. Huh! Well what is it FC, 600 or 650?

Friends of the Boar also conducted a survey over the last 12 months, but unlike the FC we used local people, visitors and of course our own eyes on the ground. We dismissed all sightings sent in from the same areas where boar had already been recorded as they were probably duplicates.
After more than 100 individuals sent in their results, we were left with a number of 200.

We understand that this is an underestimate, so lets say there are, "were" 250 boar at the end of August 2012. Take into account natural deaths, poaching, RTA's and legal shooting by private landowners and the real number could be as low as 200.

The Forestry Commission announced they are to cull 100 wild boar from 1st September 2012 to 1st January 2013 and if the numbers are as low as we suspect, this could mean that after the FC has finished their cull there could be as little as 100 wild boar left in the Forest of Dean.
This is not wildlife management and it certainly isn't wildlife conservation, especially as they, the FC have also announced that 400 wild boar is an acceptable number for the Forest of Dean!

In 2011 the Forestry Commission conducted a night time census, to show the public that there were indeed hundreds of wild boar roaming our woods. After 3 months the census was binned. Why? They only found a small handful of boar and were left humiliated. It wasn't long after that they announced that they were suspending the cull for a whole 12 months, so that the boars numbers could recover.
With the boar numbers being so low (under 100) it would take more than 12 months for them to stabilise and this is why this cull must be stopped - NOW!

Wild Boar Census Announced

Oops! 16 wild boar found, when the FC estimated there were 350

With 100 boar to be shot over the coming few months, we will once again see this animal struggle to survive. It will promote stress throughout the remaining sounders (groups), which can lead to disease such as TB.

The boar have been roaming wild in the Forest of Dean for more than 8 years now and I would like to ask the question; when are they going to stop using excuses such as... 
"They are dangerous" 
"They root up our road verges"
"They eat children"
"They chase and kill dogs"
"They will eat all of our bluebells"

Guess what? Our bluebells are still here and to date, no child has been eaten. 
Yes, in the past dogs have died and that is unfortunate. I own a dog myself and I "can" imagine how they feel / felt when this happened. However, since Friends of the Boar have pushed and pushed education out there for members of the public and visitors, incidents between boar and dogs has dropped dramatically.

As for this animal being dangerous, how do we define the word dangerous where the wild boar is concerned?
1. It Bites?
3. It can Gore you?

1. Fox's can bite, badgers can bite, squirrels can bite, adders can bite but more to the point DOGS CAN AND DO BITE! 
The adder is our only venomous snake in Britain and if bitten, even the healthiest adult human can die if they suffer an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock and they do not receive medical assistance. If a child is bitten it can be extremely serious.

2. Yes boar can bite like the dog and snake. They can also gore, but they aren't the only animal in our forest capable of this. Fallow deer can gore and kill with their antlers.

Does the above sound like scaremongering? If you have answered yes, then look at what is being said about the boar. To date no one has been gored or bitten by this animal. We live along side many other wildlife species that are capable of injuring us, yet we do not give them a second thought. Why? No one has been seriously injured by one, that's why, the same as the boar.
I wonder how long it will take for people to fully accept them as a true native, British species?



Many thanks from the wildlife in the Forest of Dean for your help and support.

A sow and her piglet, photographed in 2012

One the hit list; wild boar and badger


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Why Aren't We Vaccinating Cattle?

Why Aren't We Vaccinating Cattle?
Bovine TB – Time for a Rethink

Thanks to Sally for providing this Document and Link.

It is chronic and debilitating, it puts farmers out of business and destroys livelihoods. Are we talking about the disease, or the policy to control it?
Under the current UK policy, cattle are tested at regular intervals for exposure to Bovine TB. Those that fail the test are slaughtered and severe restrictions on cattle movement are placed on the farm. This is the ‘test and cull’ regime. It costs taxpayers £100million a year and has a devastating impact on farmers.
Test and cull requires regular and stressful handling of cattle which compromises both animal welfare and human safety. Compensation does not always cover the value of individual culled animals, and does not cover the consequences of movement restrictions or the loss of critical breeding stock. Even DEFRA describes the diagnostic skin test for Bovine TB as ‘imperfect’ in its ability to correctly identify animals that have been exposed to Bovine TB.
The test and cull policy, we are told, is there to protect human health, animal welfare and to meet our international (EU) commitments. Is it worth the cost?
Human Health: In the UK, human infection with the bacterium responsible for Bovine TB (Mycobacterium bovis) is almost non-existent because milk is pasteurised milk and meat is cooked. So negligible is the risk that cattle slaughtered under the test and cull policy, and those found at abattoirs to be infected, are sold for human consumption. Most of the very few cases of Bovine TB in humans were initially contracted in other countries or before the pasteurisation of milk became the norm.
Animal Health: Infected cattle have little probability of developing the disease and seldom show symptoms during their (often short) economic lives. Bovine TB can remain dormant in an animal for many years or indefinitely. If an animal reacts to the skin test this does not mean that it will go on to develop symptoms, be infectious, or become ill. There are other diseases of cattle that pose a more serious risk to human and animal health yet are not even notifiable. Many are simply vaccinated against.
International Commitments: UK policy is ultimately driven by the EU which requires member states to eradicate Bovine TB. It lays down the means to be used, and does not allow cattle vaccination. Since the BSE ban was lifted, the annual value of live cattle exports from the UK has never exceeded £3.3million.
What is devastating about Bovine TB is not the disease.
It is the test and cull policy.
As the Bovine TB Advisory Group concluded in its final report to Defra:
“Bovine TB has been a difficult and demanding problem for many years. There are reasons for believing that it can be controlled and finally eradicated but this will require a long-term commitment by all stakeholders and take at least 20 years.”
Can we afford the cost, and will farmers tolerate another 20 years of movement restrictions, inaccurate testing and compulsory cattle culling?
It has been pointed out that other countries with so-called wildlife reservoirs have achieved OTF status (Officially TB-free). However, they have done this by using the skin test as it was designed - as a herd test. If one animal fails the test, the whole herd is slaughtered and restocking is delayed. Officially TB-free status does not mean the disease has been eradicated, just that it has reached a low level – less than 0.5% of herds having breakdowns over a 5 year period. Even Officially TB-free countries have Bovine TB.
Would it not make sense to vaccinate cattle?
Vaccines can be used for two complementary purposes - to protect individuals or to protect populations. No vaccine provides complete immunity to individuals, just a measure of protection. If enough animals are vaccinated with a typical vaccine it is near impossible for an epidemic to occur – this is the principle of herd immunity.
According to DEFRA, a cattle vaccine against Bovine TB will be licensed this year (2012). However, current EU laws do not allow vaccination against Bovine TB. This is because BCG vaccination of cattle can interfere with the skin test, which is the recognised primary test for Bovine TB.
Defra state that they are working with the EU to change EU legislation on cattle vaccination, and on the use of the DIVA test which can differentiate between a vaccinated and an infected animal. They are working towards having the test certified for use at the end of 2012.
It is imperative that the obstacles to vaccinating cattle
against Bovine TB are removed as quickly as possible.
An EU derogation could be obtained to allow the UK to introduce a programme of cattle vaccination against
Bovine TB without further delay.
Contact your MP, MEP, and your Farming Union and ask that they make the vaccination of cattle against Bovine TB in the UK a priority.

More on bTB here:


Wild Boar Cull Starting in Forest of Dean

In September 2011 the Forestry Commission agreed to suspend the cull of wild boar for 12 months. 

As the boar numbers were at a critically low level, this news was welcomed by many including Friends of the Boar.
The boar were able to breed, suckle, wean and live without the stress of being killed and this has seen a far more relaxed population of boar in the Forest of Dean.
However, for the last 12 months the boar have still been killed by poachers, RTA's, natural deaths and legal killing by landowners, reducing their numbers even further.
For the FC to suspend the cull of this animal for a whole year it has to tell you that they realised that this species had been over managed (culled) and that if they didn't give them a reprieve they could stand a real chance of being wiped out.
For the last 12 months Friends of the Boar have been actively recruiting volunteers to send in boar sightings online (confidentially). From all sightings gathered we then knocked off all duplicates from the same areas and we were left with 200 animals.
I understand that not all boar have been sighted and reported, but this is more respectable than the 650 animals estimated by the FC!

The FC have announced that they are to cull 100 wild boar in the Forest of Dean between now and January 2013. This is based on their estimation of 650 boar present at this time.
Now, just imagine that they are wrong in their estimation (like previously) and that there are in fact only 300 boar present at this time. They cull 100, which leaves 200 and then after further RTA's, poaching and legal shooting takes its toll, we could once again be left with a critical level of boar in the Dean.
A recent statement from a newly formed boar panel was "Doing Nothing is not an Option;" this is not animal management, this is not wildlife conservation, this is animal cruelty and murder!

I will now touch on two points.

1. How have I come by the estimation of only 300 wild boar?
Friends of the Boar estimated boar numbers to be below 100, probably around 90 when the FC declared they were abandoning the cull for 12 months in September 2011.
From 90 animals, lets say 50 were sexually mature sows, which mated in the later part of 2011. Given that not all young survive and that a sow can have between 2 and 8 young per-birth, lets say that on average 4 young survived for each sow. This equates to 200 boar and coupled with the 90, this gives us a total of 290, rounded up to 300.

2. What does this mean to our boar?  
The answer to this is quite simple, but at the same time devastating!
Wild boar roam in close knit groups called sounders, except for sexually mature males, which only associate with a sounder during the breeding season. If the boar numbers are at a very low level like we have seen recently, this will dramatically reduce the chances of a male finding suitable females. This can and probably will result in inbreeding, resulting in a dirty gene pool. We have seen this recently with our declining adder populations and as a result we are seeing smaller and infertile snakes.
Given the dirty gene pool and stress endured from culling, this could also make the boar more susceptible to disease such as TB.

I feel the boar were not given time for their numbers to stabilise and I also think there is more to this than just "Having to do Something."
An e-petition is on the way. As soon as it is available it will be posted here and everywhere!

Viva! is already covering our cause here:

FotB Official Website here:

FotB on Facebook here:

On a positive note we can announce that we have three patrons.

1. Andy Rouse -
2. Zara Boland -
3. Sarah Jane Honeywell -

We welcome all three to our cause and thank them immensely for their support!

This Piglet has been on a long journey. We can make the rest of it a lot easier for him!


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Thousands of Badgers to Die!

The Badger Trust has Lost its Appeal to Stop the Cull of Badgers in the West Country!

Below are links to online petitions; repeated at end of post.

The news many people and organisations have been dreading; the Badger Trust has lost its appeal to halt the cull of thousands of badgers across Gloucestershire and Somerset and Natural England is soon expected to issue licences to shoot free running badgers at night.

What happens now?

As this was an appeal, which was lost, the cull will commence this autumn unless a miracle happens. We have many powerful and knowledgeable people standing in the corner of the badger like Brian May, Sir David Attenborough and Simon King to name a few, but will this be enough?
I don't think so, but as a nation we, the people have the power to stop this from happening. If enough of us stand together then anything is possible. People power stopped the sell off of our woodland as hundreds of thousands of people stood together and said "NO!"

Does this shy, secretive and nocturnal animal not matter? We fought long and hard to protect our woodlands, yet only the minority is willing to stand up to protect an amazing creature, which calls our forests and countryside its home.

If we just sit back without caring, they will ravage our countryside and forests with development and death; destroying unique and diverse habitats on their way without giving a damn about the implications it will have on our eco-system.
Our children and grandchildren have to grow up in the world we leave behind, and it is up to "us" to make sure it is a good one.

It is fact that killing 70% of the badger population in the designated areas will reduce bTB in cattle by just 16%. And it will take 9 years to complete, so where is the logic in this insane proposal?

bTB must be tackled, but it must be tackled in a way that will see it eradicated throughout our countryside and forests. This disease can be carried by most mammals, including rodents, deer, fox and wild boar. All can and will enter farmland, so what are they going to do, kill all deer, fox, boar, mice and rats after they have finished with the badger?
To target one species is discrimination, unjust and will only end in failure at the cost of two counties losing a valuable asset to our eco-system.

The cull will see trained marksmen shooting free running badgers at night with high powered rifles and the bullets have the capability of travelling up to three miles. If this sounds insane to you, that's because it is and to top it off there will be no information as to when and where the shoots are to take place. So watch yourself if you use public footpaths at night, as you may find yourself on the receiving end on a missile, which will pass straight through you; killing you.
Night time cull trials have been tested in the past and in one incident a marksman tragically killed his grandson!

One reason why scientists have spoken out against this cull is because of the Perturbation Effect. 

What is the Perturbation Effect? Badgers live in social groups and when disrupted or if the badgers feel their life is in danger, they will flee the sett in search of safer ground. If any of the fleeing badgers are indeed infected with bTB, they will carry and transmit the disease over a wider area. 
See links below for full details.

What is the alternative to culling? Vaccination!
DEFRA has spent years and millions of pounds developing a vaccine, yet they have shelved it in favour of a cull. 
Click the link below for Fera's Badger Vaccine Deployment Project.

Many believe that by vaccinating both badgers and cattle, it will help eradicate this disease and lets be honest, the human race itself is vaccinated against multiple diseases and we did this without a mass cull of human beings; unless you count the many wars we have seen!
First we must get this disease under control, once under control we can work towards eradicating it. By killing just one species will not help us reach this goal and this is why we must all stand up to help stop this cull.

If you disagree with the badger cull and want to help, please click on the links below and sign the petitions. Many thanks.

And if you don't believe me, you can hear it from the experts! 

In 2010 I wrote to my local MP regarding my concerns over the proposed badger cull and what measures were in place and being implemented to help stop the progression of bTB. He then forwarded my letter onto Jim Paice.
Jim Paice replied to me in 2011 through my local MP with a 6 page reply. Please see below.