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PLoS One ; 16(9): e0242586, 2021.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-34478443


Road ecology has traditionally focused on the impact of in-situ and functional roads on wildlife. However, road construction also poses a major, yet understudied, threat and the implications for key aspects of animal behaviour are unknown. Badgers (Meles meles) have been implicated in the transmission of tuberculosis to cattle. There are concerns that environmental disturbances, including major road construction, can disrupt badger territoriality, promoting the spread of the disease to cattle. To address these knowledge gaps the ranging behaviour of a medium-density Irish badger population was monitored using GPS-tracking collars before, during, and after a major road realignment project that bisected the study area. We estimated badgers' home range sizes, nightly distances travelled, and the distance and frequency of extra-territorial excursions during each phase of the study and quantified any changes to these parameters. We show that road construction had a very limited effect on ranging behaviour. A small increase in nightly distance during road construction did not translate into an increase in home range size, nor an increase in the distance or frequency of extra-territorial excursions during road construction. In addition, suitable mitigation measures to prevent badger deaths appeared to ensure that normal patterns of ranging behaviour continued once the new road was in place. We recommend that continuous badger-proof fencing be placed along the entire length of new major roads, in combination with appropriately sited underpasses. Our analysis supports the view that road construction did not cause badgers to change their ranging behaviour in ways likely to increase the spread of tuberculosis.

Mustelidae , Territorialidade , Animais , Bovinos , Reservatórios de Doenças , Mycobacterium bovis , Tuberculose Bovina
Front Vet Sci ; 8: 632525, 2021.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-33842575


Despite advances in herd management, tuberculosis (TB) continues to affect ~0. 5% of Ireland's national cattle herd annually. It is clear that any "final" eradication of TB in cattle will need to address all TB maintenance hosts in the same environment. In Ireland and the UK, European Badgers (Meles meles) are a known TB maintenance host, while deer are recognised as spillover hosts. However, deer have been identified as maintenance hosts in other countries and Sika deer, specifically, have been identified with TB in Ireland. We examined the power of cattle, badger and Sika deer densities (at the county level) to predict cattle TB-breakdowns in Ireland, at both the herd and the individual level, using data collected between 2000 and 2018. Our hypothesis was that any positive correlations between deer density and cattle TB-breakdowns would implicate deer as TB maintenance hosts. Using linear multiple regressions, we found positive correlations between deer density and cattle TB-breakdowns at both the herd and individual levels. Since Sika deer in County Wicklow are known to have TB, we ran further regressions against subsets of data which excluded individual Irish counties. Analyses excluding Wicklow data showed much weaker correlations between Sika deer density and cattle TB-breakdowns at both the herd and individual levels, suggesting that these correlations are strongest in County Wicklow. A similar effect for badger density was seen in County Leitrim. While locally high densities of Sika deer persist in Irish counties, we believe they should be considered an integral part of any TB-control programme for those areas.

Sci Rep ; 10(1): 9665, 2020 06 15.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32541685


European badgers (Meles meles) in medium and high density populations show strong territorial behaviour. Territories in these populations are contiguous, well-marked and often unchanging over many years. However, badgers do not always stay within their territorial boundaries. In our medium-density population, most individual badgers made extra-territorial excursions (ETEs) throughout the year. ETEs were most frequent between April and September and least frequent in December and January (the period of winter lethargy). Male badgers made longer and more frequent ETEs than females (especially between January and March, and in autumn). Breeding females made longer and more frequent ETEs than non-breeding females in November. While these peaks correspond with the main mating seasons, mating activity does not explain ETEs throughout the year. The shorter, but more frequent, ETEs in summer months may serve a monitoring purpose, rather than simply providing additional mating opportunities with badgers from outside the 'home' social group. We found that young badgers did not make regular ETEs until the summer of their second year. If badgers could be vaccinated as cubs, this would reduce any potential risk of TB spread during ETEs.

Preferência de Acasalamento Animal/fisiologia , Mustelidae/fisiologia , Territorialidade , Animais , Cruzamento , Feminino , Masculino , Estações do Ano
Ecol Evol ; 9(23): 13142-13152, 2019 Dec.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31871635


European badgers (Meles meles) are group-living mustelids implicated in the spread of bovine tuberculosis (TB) to cattle and act as a wildlife reservoir for the disease. In badgers, only a minority of individuals disperse from their natal social group. However, dispersal may be extremely important for the spread of TB, as dispersers could act as hubs for disease transmission. We monitored a population of 139 wild badgers over 7 years in a medium-density population (1.8 individuals/km2). GPS tracking collars were applied to 80 different individuals. Of these, we identified 25 dispersers, 14 of which were wearing collars as they dispersed. This allowed us to record the process of dispersal in much greater detail than ever before. We show that dispersal is an extremely complex process, and measurements of straight-line distance between old and new social groups can severely underestimate how far dispersers travel. Assumptions of straight-line travel can also underestimate direct and indirect interactions and the potential for disease transmission. For example, one female disperser which eventually settled 1.5 km from her natal territory traveled 308 km and passed through 22 different territories during dispersal. Knowledge of badgers' ranging behavior during dispersal is crucial to understanding the dynamics of TB transmission, and for designing appropriate interventions, such as vaccination.

PLoS One ; 13(2): e0191818, 2018.
Artigo em Inglês | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29444100


We monitored the ranging of a wild European badger (Meles meles) population over 7 years using GPS tracking collars. Badger range sizes varied seasonally and reached their maximum in June, July and August. We analysed the summer ranging behaviour, using 83 home range estimates from 48 individuals over 6974 collar-nights. We found that while most adult badgers (males and females) remained within their own traditional social group boundaries, several male badgers (on average 22%) regularly ranged beyond these traditional boundaries. These adult males frequently ranged throughout two (or more) social group's traditional territories and had extremely large home ranges. We therefore refer to them as super-rangers. While ranging across traditional boundaries has been recorded over short periods of time for extraterritorial mating and foraging forays, or for pre-dispersal exploration, the animals in this study maintained their super-ranges from 2 to 36 months. This study represents the first time such long-term extra-territorial ranging has been described for European badgers. Holding a super-range may confer an advantage in access to breeding females, but could also affect local interaction networks. In Ireland & the UK, badgers act as a wildlife reservoir for bovine tuberculosis (TB). Super-ranging may facilitate the spread of disease by increasing both direct interactions between conspecifics, particularly across social groups, and indirect interactions with cattle in their shared environment. Understanding super-ranging behaviour may both improve our understanding of tuberculosis epidemiology and inform future control strategies.

Comportamento Animal , Mustelidae/fisiologia , Animais , Europa (Continente)