A total of 10,886 animals killed across the South West during six-week licensed cull

Nearly 3,000 badgers were killed in Devon, including in North Devon, during a six-week controlled cull, according to figures released today (Friday) by Defra.

The animals were shot or caged in two cull areas in the county between August 29 and October 18 as part of the Government's 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (bTB).

In Devon, 926 badgers were shot and 1,945 trapped by cage during the cull carried out by licensed local farmers and landowners.

Altogether, 10,886 badgers were killed in Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Herefordshire and Dorset.

The Devon and Cornwall Against The Badger Cull group protesting outside Bideford Library in September. Picture: Graham HobbsThe Devon and Cornwall Against The Badger Cull group protesting outside Bideford Library in September. Picture: Graham Hobbs

Following the cull, England is set to apply for officially TB-Free (OTF) status for more than half of the country next year - two years ahead of schedule.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: "Gaining global recognition that more than half of England is TB-free will be a significant milestone in our long-term plan to eradicate this devastating disease, and will open up new trading opportunities for farmers.

"We have much still to do in the worst affected parts of the country, but this shows that our strategy - combining practical biosecurity measures, a robust cattle movement and testing regime, and badger control in areas where the disease is rife - is right and is working."

According to Defra, bTB costs taxpayers more than £100 million a year and required the culling of 28,000 cattle in 2015.

Nearly 3,000 badgers were killed in Devon during the latest cull. Picture: Stephan Morris/Getty Images/iStockphotoNearly 3,000 badgers were killed in Devon during the latest cull. Picture: Stephan Morris/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A consultation opens today (Friday) on next steps for badger control in areas that have completed the first four years of intensive culling.

Other measures have been announced as part of the Government's plan to eradicate bTB-freedom across the country by 2038.

They include the wider use of blood tests alongside the current skin test in the high risk areas to provide a more sensitive testing regime in TB affected herds, minimising the risk of leaving infected animals in herds.

There is a plan to introduce new, more coherent powers to manage the TB risk in pigs, sheep, goats, deer and camelids.

And an online tool which allows farmers to view TB outbreaks close to their farm will be refreshed every fortnight rather than every month.

In September, around a dozen protesters gathered in Bideford to rally against badger culls around North Devon and Torridge.

The Government's chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: "This year we have seen that badger control can be delivered successfully on a wider scale.

"Further expansion in the coming years, alongside our robust cattle movement and testing regime, will allow us to achieve and maintain long term reductions in the level of TB across the South West and Midlands where the disease is currently widespread."