Understanding the epidemiology of bovine TB and potential routes of infection by elucidation of fine-scale badger behaviour and movement

  • Sophie Redpath

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is an endemic, zoonotic disease in cattle and badgers, which threatens animal health, farm productivity and commercial earnings within the U.K. and Ireland. Culling of badgers has been suggested as a potentially useful protocol to reduce the incidence of bTB in badgers and thus cattle; however, the practice is controversial and has not consistently resulted in reduced disease prevalence in areas of high badger density. The movement and behaviour of badgers is central to understanding disease transmission to livestock and will directly influence the efficacy of disease management strategies. This thesis addresses gaps in the current understanding of badger ecology and bTB epidemiology by investigating the movement, behaviour and land usage of badgers in a medium-density population during a selective culling trial through the use of GPS and accelerometery, to assess short-term changes (over several nights) and long-term (over several years) as a result of trapping procedures and badger removal. Additionally, the prevalence of bTB in badgers is assessed through RTA surveying, to understand how bTB status, life-history traits and habitat may influence body condition. Results showed that badger ranging, behaviour and land usage may not necessarily be affected by badger removal during a selective cull - however, ranging and behaviour were altered for several nights following overnight trapping, resulting in increased nightly movement and a shift in circadian rhythm. In addition, results showed that land type had a significant impact on badger behaviour and body condition, with badgers showing a foraging preference for hedgerows, and avoiding anthropogenic areas including residential housing, roads and farmyards. Across Northern Ireland, bTB prevalence in badgers was found to be 13.27%. This thesis provides further information regarding the ecology of badgers at medium-density in Ireland, which can be used to better inform biosecurity, disease management and intervention strategies.

Thesis embargoed until 31 July 2025.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsDepartment of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
SupervisorNikki Marks (Supervisor) & Michael Scantlebury (Supervisor)


  • Badger
  • bTB
  • bovine tuberculosis
  • ecology
  • GPS
  • accelerometry
  • cattle

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