2026 goal for TB eradication

22:01, Apr 09 2013

Ferrets are being trapped and tested for bovine tuberculosis (TB) in western Southland as part of a programme to rid Southland of TB by 2026.

The trapping, near the Takitimu Range from now until next month, will help authorities control the spread of TB from possums to cattle and deer herds.

Ferrets scavenge on wildlife including TB-infected possums, and by locating the infected ferrets, the presence of the disease in other wild animals can be found.

TB-free Southland committee chairman Mike O'Brien said trapping ferrets played an important role in protecting cattle and deer herds from TB-infected wild animals.

''The information we collect from these ferrets is essential in western Southland where there have been recent cases of TB in cattle herds that have been traced back to infected wild animals,'' Mr O'Brien said.

The authority appreciated the co-operation of landowners when the traps were being set and checked on their property, he said.

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Animal Health Board southern South Island area TB manager Garry Knowles said the ferrets would have an autopsy to check for the disease.

Ferrets with TB could be traced back to where they were trapped which would provide information to help with future possum control, Mr Knowles said.

Each trap is set up to 300m apart and mapped using GPS technology.

Possums are responsible for about 70 per cent of new cattle and deer herd infections in New Zealand. Infected animals have to be slaughtered while the rest of the herd has extensive testing and movement control.

During the 1990s Southland had 56 TB-infected herds, which has decreased to two infected herds - including one newly infected in October, last year.

Hot spots for TB-infected wildlife are the Hokonui Hills and Takitimu Mountains.

The Southland Times