Spatial perturbation, badger culling, territoriality and bovine TB
Journal of Animal
Ecology, Volume 69,Number 5, September 2000, pp. 815-828(14) -
The spatial organization of a badger population (North Nibley)
is described before and after it was subjected to a UK Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food badger removal operation (BRO) intended to control bovine
tuberculosis. Comparison is made with an undisturbed badger population
The Woodchester Park population was organized in group
territories with clearly defined boundaries that remained stable during the 3
years of study (1995–97). In North Nibley, however, the badgers' spatial
organization was severely perturbed in the first year and, to a lesser extent,
also in the second year after the BRO, with badgers using latrines further away
from their setts. This resulted in enlarged social group ranges that were
difficult to define and overlapped considerably.
The disturbance was observed in the removal groups, those
immediately adjacent, as well as those at a distance of one or two social groups
from the removal area, with an unexpected indication that the latter groups may
have been the most affected.
The apparent increase in the size of the group ranges in North
Nibley was likely to have been caused by an increased proportion of badgers
making extra-group excursions in the aftermath of the BRO.
Initial recolonisation was almost exclusively by females.
Although such perturbation might be expected to facilitate
disease transmission between badger social groups, there was no evidence that
any infectious animals had survived the BRO. However, there were further cattle
breakdowns in the area.
The behaviour of badgers after the BRO also provided an
opportunity to test predictions made by competing hypotheses about the main
determinants of the badger's socio-spatial behaviour.
bait-marking; disease control; infanticide;
radio-tracking; spatial organization