The behaviour of badgers (Meles meles) in response to a period of pre-baiting and trapping undertaken for disease management research
Griffiths, Amy Louise
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Badgers (Meles meles) have long been implicated in the transmission of bovine tuberculosis ( bTB) and as a result, a considerable amount of time, effort and money have been invested in TB research programmes and control policies. The majority of these operations require badgers to be restrained in cage traps. Three distinct ‘populations’ (each containing four independent social groups) that had different levels of prior feeding experience (habituated, semi-habituated and naïve) were selected in the south west of England. The 12 setts were filmed using remote infra-red CCTV cameras over the duration of their pre-baiting period and the subsequent behaviour exhibited by the badgers was observed. In addition, the behaviour of badgers once captured was analysed according to the number of times an individual had been caught previously. The results from this research suggests that the pre-baiting period affects badgers’ behaviour towards traps and its bait source and that they will respond differently within this period due to differences in habituation to prior feeding. As the pre-baiting period continued, the semi-habituated and naïve badgers became more accustomed to the presence of the trap, which was shown by differences in bait and trap interaction times (an increase in bait interaction and a decrease in trap interaction) and a decrease in time from when a badger was first observed to when a badger would first enter a trap. Artificial feeding did not appear to affect group relations as aggressive encounters were limited. From an animal welfare point of view this research has highlighted that badgers only spend, on average, 37% (range 3 - 71%) of their restraint period trying to actively escape from the trap. Overall, the number of times that a badger had been previously caught had a significant effect on the active escape behaviour exhibited. Badgers that had been caught on more than three occasions would spend less time trying to actively escape than badgers less experienced to entrapment. It is important to note that trapping efficiency is not a direct result of animal behaviour only. When carrying out any form of trapping regime, a range of factors must be considered in order to maximise trapping effort, such as the availability of natural food resource and the presence of non target species.
Food and Environment Research Agency
MbyRes in Biosciences