Behaviour-time budget and functional habitat use of a free-ranging European badger(Meles meles)

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Abstract

Background: The European badger (Meles meles) is involved in the maintenance of bovine tuberculosis infection and onward spread to cattle. However, little is known about how transmission occurs. One possible route could be through direct contact between infected badgers and cattle. It is also possible that indirect contact between cattle and infected badger excretory products such as faeces or urine may occur either on pasture or within and around farm buildings. A better understanding of behaviour patterns in wild badgers may help to develop biosecurity measures to minimise direct and indirect contact between badgers and cattle. However, monitoring the behaviour of free-ranging badgers can be logistically challenging and labour intensive due to their nocturnal and semi-fossorial nature. We trialled a GPS and tri-axial accelerometer-equipped collar on a free-ranging badger to assess its potential value to elucidate behaviour-time budgets and functional habitat use. Results: During the recording period between 16:00 and 08:00 on a single night, resting was the most commonly identified behaviour (67.4%) followed by walking (20.9%), snuffling (9.5%) and trotting (2.3%). When examining accelerometer data associated with each GPS fix and habitat type (occurring 2 min 30 s before and after), walking was the most common behaviour in woodland (40.3%) and arable habitats (53.8%), while snuffling was the most common behaviour in pasture (61.9%). Several nocturnal resting periods were also observed. The total distance travelled was 2.28 km. Conclusions: In the present report, we demonstrate proof of principle in the application of a combined GPS and accelerometer device to collect detailed quantitative data on wild badger behaviour. Behaviour-time budgets allow us to investigate how badgers allocate energy to different activities and how this might change with disease status. Such information could be useful in the development of measures to reduce opportunities for onward transmission of bovine tuberculosis from badgers to cattle.

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McClune, D. W., Marks, N. J., Delahay, R. J., Montgomery, W. I., & Scantlebury, D. M. (2015). Behaviour-time budget and functional habitat use of a free-ranging European badger(Meles meles). Animal Biotelemetry, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40317-015-0025-z

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