The Humane Society UK (HSI UK) claims hundreds of badgers may be at risk of local extinction following the culls and winter flooding.

The animal protection organisation made the claim in support of its efforts to prevent the badger cull re-starting, which can now legally begin.

But after the devastating winter flooding in Somerset and Gloucestershire, campaigners are urging Defra to rethink the second year of cull trials before they have surveyed the number of badgers left.

Mark Jones, HSI UK’s executive director, said: “Both Somerset and Gloucestershire were badly affected by adverse weather conditions, including severe flooding and freezing temperatures only weeks after badgers in those areas had already endured shooting during the Government’s culls.

We know bodies of drowned badgers were reported, including by farmers, and a few lucky, but exhausted, badgers were rescued. We fear these few may have been the tip of the iceberg. It is quite possible hundreds of badgers in the local area could have died.

“Notwithstanding our contention that badger culling is unnecessary, inhumane and ineffective as a means of controlling TB in cattle, it would be irresponsible of Defra to allow further culling to take place without first carrying out thorough surveys in the cull zones to assess the combined impacts of badger culling and adverse weather on badger numbers.”

However, the appeal to Defra to carry out a survey has been rejected by farming minster and Cornwall MP George Eustice.

He told HSI UK there was no significant evidence that the national badger population had been affected by recent flooding.

HSI UK then called on the minister to reconsider and insisted that to comply with its own policies, Defra needed to check the impact of flooding on local badger populations.

But Mr Eustice pointed out: “Advice from badger ecologists is that while there is currently no data on how badger populations are affected by flooding, badgers are likely to avoid areas subject to periodic flooding and, thus, flooding is unlikely to have a large impact on the population.”

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