The British Government's contingency plan for the control of wildlife rabies is based on oral vaccination around a focal outbreak, with the option of the targeted lethal control of foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and badgers (Meles meles) using buried poisoned bait. We investigated uptake by badgers of nonpoison meat-based baits buried along transects for 10 consecutive days in 1995. The original aim was to evaluate the likely effectiveness of this contingency option. However, the results are also pertinent to the development of an oral tuberculosis (TB) vaccine baiting strategy for badgers, for which research has primarily been carried out since this study was completed. Bait disappearance steadily increased over time, reaching an asymptote after 7 days. By incorporating iophenoxic acid biomarkers into baits, we showed that about 51% of subsequently captured badgers had consumed bait, the majority of which did so during the first 7 days. Bait uptake was significantly higher among adults. Rates of uptake by badgers of baits buried along transects could be increased by shortening the prebaiting period or extending the baiting period. However, considerably higher levels of uptake by adults and cubs are likely to be achieved by targeting bait deployment at badger setts, and this is now included in Britain's rabies contingency plan. Although meat-based baits cannot be used for TB control, the relevance of these results to the delivery of an oral TB vaccine bait to badgers is discussed. © 2012 Crown copyright
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