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Behaviour of badgers ( Meles meles ) in farm buildings: opportunities for the transmission of Mycobacterium bovis to cattle?

By B. A. Tolhurst, R. J. Delahay, N. J. Walker, A. I. Ward, T. J. Roper

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Abstract

Eurasian badgers (Meles meles) are implicated in the transmission of bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) to cattle. Here we investigate potential spatio-temporal foci of opportunities for contact between badgers and cattle in farm buildings. We discuss the relative occurrence of different badger behaviours and their potential for facilitating disease transmission, and examine correlates of building use by badgers including availability of specific farm-based resources, badger demography, and environmental variables. In addition, we investigate seasonal variation in home range structure with respect to farm building use. Badger activity and ranging behaviour were monitored intensively on six cattle farms throughout the year between July 2003 and June 2005 using remote surveillance, radio-tracking and faecal analysis. Badgers foraged in buildings, exhibited close, investigative 'nose-to-nose' contact with housed cattle and excreted/scent marked on and around feed. A negative correlation was observed between frequency of visits and 24 h rainfall and a positive correlation with minimum temperature. Badgers visited feed stores most intensively and selected cattle 'cake' over other available food types. A peak in visits was detected in spring and summer, and male badgers were more likely to visit buildings than females. Management prescriptions for disease prevention centre on reducing opportunities for direct or indirect contact between badgers and housed cattle. It is thus recommended that effort to exclude badgers from buildings should focus on feed stores and cattle housing during spring and summer in warm, dry weather.

Date 2009
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 117
Issue 1/2
Pages 103-113
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.10.009
Language English
Author Address Department of Biology and Environmental Science, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK. b.a.tolhurst@brighton.ac.uk
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Tags
  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal ecology
  4. Animal housing
  5. Bacteria
  6. Badgers
  7. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  8. Buildings
  9. Carnivores
  10. Cattle
  11. Demography
  12. Diseases
  13. Ecology
  14. Farms
  15. Feces
  16. Habitats
  17. Infections
  18. Mammals
  19. pathogens
  20. peer-reviewed
  21. pest control
  22. prescriptions
  23. prevention
  24. prokaryotes
  25. rain
  26. Ruminants
  27. Seasonal variations
  28. seasons
  29. summer
  30. surveillance
  31. temperatures
  32. transmission
  33. Tuberculosis
  34. variation
  35. weasels
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed