Catching and Handling of Meles meles - Eurasian Badger (Wildlife Casualty Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Handling and Transport which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Meles meles - Eurasian Badger

Catching and initial restraint:

  • Approach and handle with caution:
    • May inflict severe bites.
    • Even apparently unresponsive badgers may move suddenly when handled.
    • Preferably get expert help.
    • (B151, J60.2.w3, D24, D25)
  • If the badger appears unconscious, prod gently with a stick, carefully stimulating around the sensitive areas of the eyes and mouth, to check that it is really unconscious before approaching within reach of its teeth.(B152, V.w26)
  • An upturned dustbin/wooden box may be placed over an injured badger and secured with a heavy weight (e.g. a person sitting on it) while awaiting further assistance.(B152)
  • Manoeuvre a dog-grasper around the neck before any other handling (B152);
    • The noose should be placed just behind the ears to minimise the chance of its becoming dislodged. (B157.w10)
    • Offering a stick for the badger to bite once the dog grasper is in place may distract the badger from biting the handler.(D25)
    • Grasp the loose skin over the rump and lift by this (and the grasper) into a carrying cage or dustbin, taking care that most of the badger's weight is supported from the rump not the dog grasper.(B152)
    • Do not attempt to control by scruffing: there is insufficient loose skin over the neck for safe restraint by scruffing.(D24)
    • Once a dog grasper is in place it may be possible to manoeuvre the badger head first into a dustbin (secure the lid with a rope once the badger is inside), stout wire cage or crush cage.(D25)
  • An unconscious badger may be lifted by grasping the skin at the neck and rump but only after first poking gently with a stick, carefully stimulating around the sensitive areas of the eyes and mouth, to confirm it is unconscious.
    • A very weak badger may be lifted in the same manner, but only by an experienced handler and always keeping a stout piece of wood between the handler and the badger's mouth to ensure that if the badger wakes the stick, not the handler, is bitten.(B152)
  • It has been suggested that, if severe neck injuries are present, an experienced handler may lift the badger by the tail alone.
    • This may result in tail dislocation if the badger struggles and also entails risk to the handler.
    • (B152)

Restraint for examination and treatment:

  • May be best restrained using a crush cage for brief periods (D24).
  • Brief restraint, for example to allow the administration of subcutaneous or intramuscular injections, may be possible using blankets and wooden "pig boards", or a broom, to immobilise the badger against a wall.(D24, J60.2.w3)
  • General anaesthesia is generally required for examination.(J60.2.w3, D24)

General Anaesthesia and Sedation:

General Information:

  • Combination of intramuscular medetomidine and ketamine is commonly used for general anaesthesia in small and zoo animal practice in the UK; extrapolation of dose rates for companion animals from the manufacturers recommendations may be appropriate. Manufacturer's recommendations for feline general anaesthesia include "[Medetomidine] Domitor [Pfizer Limited] should be administered at a rate of 80mcg/kg [intramuscular] with a concomitant dose of 2.5 - 7.5mg/kg [intramuscular] of Vetalar [Pharmacia and Upjohn Ltd.] or Ketaset [Fort Dodge Animal Health](ketamine)." (B202) In extrapolating dose rates a number of issues must be remembered:
    • higher dose rates may be required for very nervous / excited / agressive animals who may initially over-ride the effects of anaesthesia
    • smaller animals with a higher metabolic rate may require proportionally higher dose rates; the reverse is also usually true for larger animals
    • collapsed, shock and/or dehydrate animals may required lower dose rates
      (V.w6, V.w26)
    • Sometimes there may be a requirement for additional "top-up" doses of injectable anaesthetics (V.w6, V.w26) and the following should be considered:
      • ideally, if a mask can be applied without excessive stress on the animal, masking it down with either isoflurane or halothane is usually the best option.
      • it is not desirable to reach the situation where additional doses are being given in order to reach initial stable anaesthesia whilst the first drugs are wearing off. It is all too easy to overdose in this situation. If three injections are not effective - if possible, it is highly advisable to stop the procedure, allow the anaesthesia to wear off and then repeat the procedure at a later date using higher doses initially.
      • when increasing dosages, careful consideration should be given both the side-effects of the drugs and the availability of reversal agents
      • If an intravenous injection can be given, it may allow more control over the depth of anaesthesia
      • if a top-up dose is required, the following rule of thumb is recommended:
  1. If there is little effect on the animal after 15 minutes (it is alert and reponsive), give a second full dose
  2. If the animal is clearly affected but still active after 15 minutes, give a 3/4 dose.
  3. If there is some degree of anaethesia, but a deeper level is required, give 1/2 dose.
  4. Beyond that - use best judgement.

(V.w6, V.w26)

 Suggested protocols for badger sedation and general anaesthesia include:

  • For general anaesthesia the following protocol has been used efficiently and safely:
    • Medetomidine (Domitor, Pfizer) 40 g/kg bodyweight plus ketamine 7.5 mg/kg bodyweight intramuscular. (D24)
    • Intramuscular injection in a conscious animal may be given while it is being physically restrained by means of a crush cage or by remote injection e.g. blow-pipe.
    • Once administration has taken place the badger should be left in a quiet dark place to allow the drugs to take effect.
    • (D24, V.w6)
  • The effects of medetomidine are normally reversed by injection of the agent atipamezole, unless otherwise indicated. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • [General] anaesthesia for examination: Ketamine 7.5-10mg/kg plus medetomidine 100g/kg provides more relaxation than ketamine alone but profound respiratory depression. [Route not specified but presumed intramuscular] (J60.2.w3)
  • [General] anaesthesia for examination: Ketamine 20-30mg/kg plus diazepam or xylazine at less than 2mg/kg. [Route not specified] (J60.2.w3)
  • Isoflurane may be administered carefully by anaesthetic face mask in a collapsed animal.(D24)
  • Ketamine 10-20mg/kg intramuscular for immobilisation, prior to maintenance of [general] anaesthesia using inhalational anaesthetics.(B205)
  • Combination of ketamine with a sedative (e.g. benzodiazepine, alpha-2 agonist) is generally preferable to the use of ketamine alone. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • Combination of ketamine with a benzodiazepine may be preferable to its combination with an alpha-2 agonist in sick or collapsed individuals because of the more limited cardiovascular depression associated with the former agent. (V.w5, V.w6, V.w26)
  • Gaseous [general] anaesthetic agents (such as isoflurane) may be administered by mask to anaesthetise cubs.(J60.2.w3)
  • Intubation is straightforward and recommended.(J60.2.w3)
  • Isoflurane or halothane may be used to prolong [general] anaesthesia following the use of injectable anaesthetic agents. (J60.2.w3)
  • The length of starvation prior to induction of general anaesthesia should be appropriate for the species in question and the likelihood of regurgitation. Clinical judgement should be used as to the pros and cons of starvation in an emergency situation.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • A dog grasper should normally be used when catching a conscious badger. 
  • Catch only if necessary.
  • Handling of wild animals should be minimised.
  • Consider design of accommodation and timing of treatments to minimise requirements for capture and handling.
  • Consider whether physical or chemical restraint is more appropriate.
  • Approach and handle with caution: may inflict severe bites. (J60.2.w3, B151)
  • In some situations, particularly where an animal can be easily targeted, the use of darting techniques may greatly decrease the stress of capture when compared with physical capture combined with hand-injection. In using darting techniques, the following points must be remembered:
    • The size of needle, volume and viscosity of the fluid and the amount of power used to project the dart should be appropriate to the size of the muscle mass and thickness of the skin. The use of inappropriate equipment and materials can cause serious damage to the animal.
    • Darting should only be undertaken by experienced personnel holding the requisite UK firearms licence.
  • (V.w6)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Experience is required to use a dog grasper safely to catch a conscious badger.
  • Badgers have insufficient loose skin at the scruff for safe restraint by scruffing. (D24)
  • There is a significant risk of severe bites (less risk from young cubs).
  • Injured and apparently unresponsive badgers may move suddenly when handled. (D24)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Stout stick
  • Plastic dustbin
  • Dog grasper
  • Thick blankets
  • Crush cage
  • Wooden "pig boards"
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Safe handling of adult badgers requires experience. Inexperienced persons should seek appropriate expert advice and assistance.
Cost/ Availability
  • Some drugs used for chemical restraint/anaesthesia are expensive.
  • Drugs used for chemical restraint may only be available to veterinary surgeons or other licensed persons.
  • There are variable costs associated with the purchase of equipment such as dog catchers; these may be available from specialist suppliers or veterinary suppliers.
  • Items such as clean plastic dustbins and stout sticks are widely available and not expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risks of zoonotic illness, must be considered.(Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974)
  • Particular attention should be paid to the zoonotic risk posed by tuberculosis when handling badgers (further information is available in Mammalian tuberculosis in badgers).
  • All people handling and working with badgers must ensure that their BCG vaccination is up to date. It is recommended that immunosuppressed individuals should not deal with badger casualties. (B151, V.w26)
  • Badgers (Meles meles - Eurasian Badger) are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. Under section 1(1) of this act it is an offence for any person to wilfully kill, injure or take (i.e. capture) a badger or attempt to do so. It is not an offence for a person to take (capture) an injured badger, so long as it is being taken solely for the purpose of tending it.(W5.Jan01)
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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