Behaviour of badgers (Meles meles) in farm buildings: opportunities for the transmission of Mycobacterium bovis to cattle?

Bryony Tolhurst, Richard J. Delahay, Neil, J. Walker, Alastair I. Ward, Timothy J. Roper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Eurasian badgers are implicated in the transmission of bovine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) to cattle. Here we investigate potential spatio-temporal foci of opportunities for contact between badgers and cattle in farm buildings. We discuss the relative occurrence of different badger behaviours and their potential for facilitating disease transmission, and examine correlates of building use by badgers including availability of specific farm-based resources, badger demography, and environmental variables. In addition, we investigate seasonal variation in home range structure with respect to farm building use. Badger activity and ranging behaviour were monitored intensively on six cattle farms throughout the year between July 2003 and June 2005 using remote surveillance, radio-tracking and faecal analysis. Badgers foraged in buildings, exhibited close, investigative ‘nose-to-nose’ contact with housed cattle and excreted/scent marked on and around feed. A negative correlation was observed between frequency of visits and 24 h rainfall and a positive correlation with minimum temperature. Badgers visited feed stores most intensively and selected cattle ‘cake’ over other available food types. A peak in visits was detected in spring and summer, and male badgers were more likely to visit buildings than females. Management prescriptions for disease prevention centre on reducing opportunities for direct or indirect contact between badgers and housed cattle. It is thus recommended that effort to exclude badgers from buildings should focus on feed stores and cattle housing during spring and summer in warm, dry weather.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-113
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume117
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

© 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Badger
  • Farm buildings
  • Foraging behaviour
  • Ranging behaviour
  • Bovine tuberculosis
  • Disease transmission

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