Last week the Government approved 11 new badger cull licences, bringing the total to 31 zones meaning over 40,000 badgers could be killed by the end of this year.

This is the sixth year of the Government’s badger cull and the sixth year I have been personally involved in checking on setts and looking out for injured badgers.

Protesting and campaigning against the badger cull has changed for many of us over the last few years.  Due to the licences being extended and the cull zones creeping across much of the country, gone are my days of needing to drive 90 minutes or more to a cull zone. Today, I only have to step outside my door and drive less than a few miles to the North Cotswolds which is classed as one of the Gloucestershire zones.

This year I waited with baited breath to see if the cull would be extended to my village. It was certainly on the cards, but it seems Oxfordshire got a reprieve for now. As a member of Oxfordshire Badger Group many of us have been out all summer sett mapping as much of the region as we could - what you don’t know about you cannot save!  

When you live in or are very close to a cull zone it can feel very personal. The badgers that you have been watching and checking on over the years become even more under threat. It brings great anxiety to many locals who feel devastated at the thought of their local brocks being shot.

Localised extinction is certainly a possibility. Areas that I checked in 2014 and 2015 in Gloucestershire are now seeing just that. Setts which have been there for hundreds of years are now “dead”, empty and abandoned.

Badgers are under threat from many angles including sett blocking. Recently, the BBC and the Independent reported on sett blocking here in the Cotswolds after a report released by Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch and the Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs.

The worst case of blocking I discovered was in the Gloucestershire cull zone in 2014. Myself and a friend found a sett rammed with metal springs.

It was totally heart breaking and I cannot comprehend how anyone can do such a thing that leads to the suffocation and death of wild animals.  Cull time can feel very intense and is where we ramp up our checks on setts in the zone. We go out at night with a Wounded Badger Patrol or as a small group of locals walking on footpaths that are located near setts and then also check on setts in the day.  I generally make sure I check on a sett every day, sometimes very quickly in my lunch hour.  These aren’t always necessarily setts right in the cull zone but just outside which make them vulnerable. When you live in a cull zone, or near as I do, checking on badger setts becomes a part of your everyday life. It is all year round! I find I am also constantly on the look-out for the best torch!

You really can make a difference. 

You will make friends for life as I have. Badgers need heroes and you are one of them.