Socio-spatial organization of Eurasian badgers (Meles meles) in a low-density population of central Europe

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Abstract:

We studied the socio-spatial organization of Eurasian badgers (or European badgers), Meles meles (L., 1758), in a low-density population (estimate 1.8 badgers/km2) inhabiting a semi-rural area of western Switzerland. For this purpose, 8 badgers (5 males and 3 females) were caught at 5 different main setts and were radio-tracked between May 1994 and November 1996. The size of individual home ranges varied from 0.27 to 3.74km2 (1.69± 1.33km2 (mean± SD), n = 8, 100% MCP), seemingly according to local variations in habitat productivity. Individual home ranges were spatially stable, but their size decreased significantly during winter (0.26± 0.42km2, n = 7, 100% MCP). Badger social units consisted of 1–5 adults and (or) subadults (2.2± 1.5 animals, n = 9) and their yearly offspring. Group-range size varied from 0.57 to 3.74km2 (2.12± 1.30km2, n = 4) and seemed to be influenced by the spatial distribution pattern of food resources. Indeed, each group range encompassed approximately the same surface of agricultural land (about 0.60km2). Territories were not well marked, some group ranges partly overlapped. Latrines, which were not numerous and principally located inside rather than along borders of group ranges, were only used irregularly or sporadically. This prompts us to encourage the reconsideration of the role of territorial behaviour in promoting group formation in Eurasian badgers.

Nous avons étudié l’organisation socio-spatiale du blaireau eurasien (ou blaireau d’Europe), Meles meles (L., 1758), dans une population de faible densité (estimation : 1,8 blaireaux/km2) habitant une région semi-agricole de l’ouest de la Suisse. Dans ce but, 8 blaireaux (5mâles et 3 femelles) ont été capturés à 5 terriers principaux, et suivis par radio-pistage entre mai 1994 et novembre 1996. La taille des domaines vitaux individuels varie entre 0,27 et 3,74km2 (1,69± 1,33km2 (moyenne± ÉT), n = 8, 100 % MCP). Ces variations semblent dépendre de la productivité de l’habitat. L’emplacement des domaines vitaux reste stable au fil des saisons, mais leur superficie diminue significativement en hiver (0,26± 0,42km2, n = 7, 100 % MCP). Les unités sociales comprennent entre 1 et 5 individus adultes et (ou) subadultes (2,2± 1,5 animaux, n = 9), ainsi que les éventuels jeunes de l’année. Chaque groupe occupe un domaine social dont la taille varie entre 0,57 et 3,74km2 (2,12± 1,30km2, n = 4). Celle-ci semble être influencée par la distribution spatiale des ressources alimentaires, car chaque domaine social englobe la même surface de terres agricoles (environ 0,60km2). La population étudiée se caractérise par un faible degré de territorialité : les domaines de certains groupes sociaux se recouvrent partiellement, alors que les latrines, peu nombreuses et situées principalement à l’intérieur plutôt qu’en bordure des domaines sociaux, ne sont utilisées que de manière irrégulière ou sporadique. Ceci nous incite à encourager la reconsidération du rôle joué par le comportement territorial dans la formation de groupes sociaux chez le blaireau eurasien.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2007

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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