When to kill a cull: factors affecting the success of culling wildlife for disease control

Jamie Prentice, NJ Fox, MR Hutchings, Piran White, RS Davidson, G Marion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


Culling wildlife to control disease can lead to both decreases and increases in disease levels, with apparently conflicting responses observed, even for the same wildlife-disease system. There is therefore a pressing need to understand how culling design and implementation influence culling’s potential to achieve disease control. We address this gap in understanding using a spatial metapopulation model representing wildlife living in distinct groups with density-dependent dispersal, and framed on the badger-bovine tuberculosis (bTB) system. We show that if population reduction is too low, or too few groups are targeted, a ‘perturbation effect’ is observed, whereby culling leads to increased movement and disease spread. We also demonstrate the importance of culling across appropriate timescales, with otherwise successful control strategies leading to increased disease if they are not implemented for long enough. These results potentially explain a number of observations of the dynamics of both successful and unsuccessful attempts to control TB in badgers including the Randomised Badger Culling Trial in the UK, and we highlight their policy implications. Additionally, for parameterisations reflecting a broad range of wildlife-disease systems, we characterise ‘Goldilocks zones’, where, for restricted combination of culling intensity, coverage and duration, disease can be reduced without driving hosts to extinction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20180901
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number152
Early online date6 Mar 2019
Publication statusPrint publication - 29 Mar 2019


  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Culling
  • Disease control
  • Tuberculosis
  • Badgers
  • Bovine TB


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