Cornwall

Wounded seal found on Cornish coast had bovine TB

TB-infected seal. Pic: Cornish Seal Sanctuary
Image caption The wounded animal had to be put down after it failed to recover

A wounded seal pup that washed up on a Cornish beach was put down after contracting bovine TB, vets say.

The government said the "unusual" incident demonstrated that bovine TB could spread between species.

Vet Andy Biggs said it may have been from a badger bite after a badger possibly came into contact with the pup after being attracted by the placenta.

Mr Biggs said: "It's quite worrying to me. That pup was so severely affected and untreatable that it was destroyed."

"What's essentially an aquatic mammal, who spends very little time on our shore, goes away with a free present of bovine TB," he added.

'Terrible bite'

After the wounded animal was discovered, it was taken to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek but had to be put down after it failed to recover.

Tests by government vets at the Polwhele Veterinary Laboratory near Truro found it was suffering from bovine TB.

The vets said they believed it was the first time a seal had been diagnosed with the disease.

Many other warm-blooded animals are susceptible to catching bovine TB, such as pigs, sheep, goats, cats and dogs, the government said.

Nigel Gibbons, the government's chief veterinary officer, said: "It seems quite unusual. We know badgers are territorial. A bite wound is quite often the way badgers are infected, or other animals infected.

"It illustrates the possibility that bovine TB can spread from one species to another."

About 10,000 cattle were slaughtered between January and March because they reacted to the TB test, or were in direct contact with the disease.

Yvonne Squire, from Torrington in Devon, had a kitten who caught bovine TB.

She said: "He was attacked by a feral cat. I took him to the vet with a terrible bite. The kitten got worse. I took him back to the vet. They did all these tests.

"They phoned me up to say my little Alfie had TB and he had to be put down. He said there was a dog there who also had it."

A badger cull was announced for two test areas earlier in the year. Under the proposals, about 5,000 badgers will be culled in two pilot zones in the South West.

The government said the action was needed to help tackle bovine TB, a disease of cattle that has been steadily rising since the 1980s.

However, wildlife groups said killing badgers would have no impact.

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