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Hedgehogs and badger odour

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Journal

Animal Behaviour, April 1997, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 709-720(12)

Authors

WARD J.F.; MACDONALD D.W.; DONCASTER C.P.
Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Abstract

Enclosure and field trials were used to investigate the responses of hedgehogs, Erinaceus europaeus , to predator (badger, Meles meles ) and non-predator odours. Two hypotheses were tested: (1) hedgehogs are capable of responding to badger odour; and (2) hedgehogs prefer not to forage in areas tainted with badger odour. In enclosure trials, hedgehogs almost exclusively avoided feeding at sites tainted with badger faeces in favour of sites tainted with non-predator faeces, and continued to avoid the previously badger-tainted site after 2 days, but not after 4. Field experiments with free-ranging hedgehogs showed a reduction in foraging effort in response to badger odour over periods of 5 and 30 min, but no evidence of site avoidance over a 24-h period. Lack of persistent avoidance of badger odour in the field was probably due to the costs of predator avoidance, which were negligible in the enclosure owing to the presence of an alternative superabundant food source.

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