A Todmorden woman has joined other Calderdale wildlife enthusiasts as they embark on an ambitious project to protect local badgers from tuberculosis.
Calderdale Badger Protection Group are hard at work raising funds for the vaccine and necessary equipment, and hope to capture and inoculate their first animals this summer.
Cath Baker, has achieved an official qualification allowing her to administer the vaccine.
Her two-day training course was organised by government body APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) and took place in Derbyshire, where a successful vaccination programme has been running since 2014.
Badgers are blamed by the government and many farmers for transmitting bTB (bovine tuberculosis) to cattle, and an estimated 130 000 have been shot in the UK since the start of culling in 2013.
Yorkshire is currently considered a low risk area for bTB and so far no licences have been granted to cull here.
Cath, a social worker and mum of two, has always had a passion for wildlife. She became particularly interested in badgers after moving to Todmorden from Manchester and noticing small holes appearing in her lawn.
She said: “I set up an infrared trail camera to see what was causing them, and was thrilled to find that badgers were visiting my garden at night in search of worms and spilt bird food.
“They are such a special animal because normally you don’t see them. You could live in Calderdale for years and not know they are here. When you do see them, it’s such a privilege.
“I was horrified by the thought of the cull happening in other parts of the country. When you see these gentle creatures snuffling about your garden, the idea of them being shot is heartbreaking.
“So I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to train as a badger vaccinator and enrolled for the APHA course. I had some classroom-based teaching and then learnt how to set cages up to trap badgers near their setts.
“It seems crazy that in other parts of the country they go to the effort of catching badgers to shoot them, when at that point they could vaccinate them and release them unharmed.”
Each “round” of vaccination involves a 10-day process. Volunteer “pre-baiters” start by leaving unsalted peanuts - a popular badger delicacy - near known sett entrances to work out which are active.
Once the best spots have been established, cages are left with their entrances wired open and more peanuts inside so that the badgers become accustomed to entering.
The cages are set late in the afternoon and the vaccinators arrive just after dawn to inject their captives.
They clip a section of fur and mark it with stock spray in order not to waste vaccine by injecting the same badger twice, before finally releasing the animal.
Farmers with badger setts on their land are invited to sign up to the Calderdale vaccination project. All funds will be paid for by the group, meaning that vaccination - unlike culling - will not cost a penny to landowners.
Everyone who signs up to the vaccination scheme must pledge not to allow culling on their land for at least five years.
For details visit www.calderdalebadgergroup.org.uk.