Badger Social Biology and its Effects on Bovine TB Control
Flatman, Joshua Peter
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
It is now widely regarded that in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland that the European Badger (Meles meles) plays a role in the maintenance and transmission of bovine tuberculosis (bTB), in populations of wild and domestic animals, particularly cattle. The complicated nature of badgers’ social behaviour and social structure has been shown to have implications for disease transmission and therefore in attempts to manage the disease. As a result of this, the effect badger social biology has on attempts to control bTB warrants further research. This dissertation investigates some of the gaps in our knowledge relating to how badger social biology influences two different management strategies that aim to target bTB incidence in badger populations. Firstly I investigate how culling, in a badger’s social group, changes individual movement (Chapter 2). To do this I employ two novel measures to quantify this movement. Badgers were from two adjacent areas, one that was the subject of culling and one that was not. Badgers from the area which had been culled returned radio tracking fixes 44.5% further from their main sett, on average, than individuals from the area not subject to culling. There was no difference found between populations using the second measure, which aimed to quantify the amount of movement around an individual’s range. Secondly, I investigate how the social composition, demography and activity of a badger’s social group influences the consumption of baits that are part of research to develop an oral bTB vaccine (Chapter 3). I found that age class, the proportion of cubs in a social group, the proportion of other individuals eating bait, and sett activity levels have a significant effect on the consumption of bait. Finally I discuss the implications of these results on our understanding of how badger social biology effects bTB control and how the results may influence the design of future research and management strategies (Chapter 4).
Animal Health & Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Food & Environment Research Agency
MbyRes in Biosciences