A pilot badger cull in the UK is set to be extended by up to three weeks because fewer animals were killed than had been hoped.
Defra said Natural England was considering an extension to the west Somerset cull to “maximise the disease control benefits”.
According to reports, just 850 badgers have been shot in the area over the six-week trial, just over 40% of an initial target of 2,081.
The aim was to kill 70% of badgers in west Somerset and Gloucestershire by free shooting.
A Defra spokesman said: “Early indications suggest that the Somerset cull has been safe, humane and enough badgers have already been killed to help reduce bovine TB.
“Natural England is currently considering an application from the cull company for a short extension of two to three weeks so as to maximise the disease control benefits achieved this year.”
Public opinion was divided over the cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset, with about a third opposing the policy and almost as many backing it, a poll in May showed.
Some 34% of 1,763 English and Welsh adults surveyed opposed the culling of badgers as part of a range of measures, and in specific infected areas, in an attempt to control tuberculosis in cattle.
But 29% supported the policy, while 22% did not know and 15% had no strong feelings about badger culling.
The YouGov poll also revealed that few people think badger culling is an important issue for the country, with just 2% listing it as one of the five top subjects, compared with more than three-quarters (77%) who thought the economy was important and 64% who named immigration and asylum as key.
It also found that more than a quarter (27%) opposed to the cull would change their mind if it meant TB did not spread to other areas of the country.
Last month, Britain's agriculture minister David Heath said the badger cull was a vital part of the plan to combat bovine TB ''however distasteful'' it appears to critics.
He defended the policy to an audience of Liberal Democrat activists, dismissing some of the attacks on the cull as ”nonsense”, and added: ”We are not talking about exterminating a species.”
The Lib Dem minister was challenged about his support for the measure at the party’s conference in Glasgow but insisted killing badgers had been shown to stop the spread of the ”devastating disease”.
He said the cull was one part of a strategy that also included tighter biosecurity measures and work on vaccines.
Mr Heath said: ”The idea that this is something that is simply unproven, won’t work, is nonsense. It’s been shown to work, that’s the evidence on which we are basing what we are doing and we will be continuing to base whatever we do on evidence.
”But I’m afraid to say, however distasteful it seems to some, this is part of the programme.”
A few weeks ago, Queen musician Brian May apologised for any offence caused by a remark he apparently made about the badger cull being like ”genocide”.
The guitarist, a leading opponent of the cull, said even though he did not recall making the remark during a visit to Gloucestershire in early September, he apologised for any offence he might have caused.
The reported comment caused a backlash among members of the Jewish community who condemned May for describing the badger cull ”as genocide in the countryside”.