There has been a huge increase in the number of badgers across NI that test positive for TB, new figures from DAERA confirm.

Results from a long-running survey of roadkill show that of the 409 badgers that were tested for TB last year, 109 returned a positive result.

It equates to a positive rate of 27% for 2022, and compares to a rate of 16% recorded the previous year. In 2020, the percentage of roadkill badgers that tested positive for TB stood at 14%.

A plan to address the reservoir of TB in wildlife is included in DAERA’s new TB strategy. However, the proposed removal of badgers in TB hotspot areas is currently on hold due to a legal challenge by wildlife campaigners. A ruling on the case is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the sharp rise in badger TB coincides with record high rates of the disease among cattle.

Herd incidence rate, a key indicator of TB, which measures the percentage of new breakdowns among TB-free herds, stood at 10.65% in February 2023, up from 8.77% a year earlier.

Sources indicate that further increases in incidence rate have occurred since February, although final figures for March and April are yet to be published by DAERA.