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The avoidance of farmyards by European badgers Meles meles in a medium density population

By E. M. Mullen, T. MacWhite, P. K. Maher, D. J. Kelly, N. M. Marples, M. Good

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Abstract

Mycobacterium bovis (TB) in cattle is a disease with far-reaching economic effects throughout Europe but especially in Great Britain and Ireland. Wildlife reservoirs, in particular the European badger Meles meles, continue to play an important role in the transmission of the disease, although the pathways of transmission are still poorly understood. The badger is an opportunistic feeder that takes advantage of seasonally abundant foods, such as fruits and insect larvae. Badgers might therefore be expected to enter farmyards to exploit grain stores or feed concentrates. This would bring them into close proximity with livestock present in those yards, potentially increasing the likelihood of disease transmission. This Irish study is the first to have looked at the use of a variety of farmyard types by free-ranging, GPS collared badgers from a medium-density population over a 3 years period. We found that badgers in our study area avoided all types of farmyards but particularly those where cattle were present. We investigated the influences of seasonality, social group members and badger gender on these preferences and found that they had no impact on this behaviour. As our results differ from the findings of studies carried out in high-density badger populations in Great Britain it is probable that different farming practices as well as differences in badger behaviour and ecology must be taken into account when designing measures to control this disease. Increasing our knowledge of the interactions between badgers and cattle in a variety of ecological situations will assist in proactive and general control of the disease in both species.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 171
Pages 170-176
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.08.021
Language English
Author Address National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Wicklow Mountains National Park, Kilafin, Laragh, Co. Wicklow, Irish Republic.enda.mullen@ahg.gov.ie emullen1@eircom.net teresa.macwhite@agriculture.gov.ie peter.maher@agriculture.gov.ie djkelly@tcd.ie nmarples@tcd.ie margaret.good@agriculture.gov.ie
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Bacteria
  4. Badgers
  5. Bovidae
  6. British Isles
  7. Carnivores
  8. Cattle
  9. Commonwealth of Nations
  10. Concentrates
  11. Control
  12. Countries
  13. Developed countries
  14. Diseases
  15. Ecology
  16. Effect
  17. Europe
  18. Farms
  19. Feeds
  20. Foraging
  21. Fruits
  22. Great Britain
  23. Infections
  24. Interactions
  25. Livestock
  26. Mammals
  27. OECD countries
  28. peer-reviewed
  29. prokaryotes
  30. Research
  31. Ruminants
  32. seasons
  33. transmission
  34. Tuberculosis
  35. ungulates
  36. United Kingdom
  37. vertebrates
  38. weasels
  39. Wild animals
  40. wildlife
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed