Use of hedgerows as a key element of badger (Meles meles) behaviour in Ireland
Human modification of landscapes is one of the greatest threats facing biodiversity worldwide and conversion of native habitat to agricultural land is widely perceived as contributing significantly to biodiversity declines. However, some species have proven to be adaptable to human-induced habitat change. Here, we show that over the course of the relatively short period of co-existence between badgers (Meles meles) and humans in Ireland, badgers have adapted to using the man-made field boundaries that have replaced native woodland. Our study population, which was located in an intensively managed agricultural landscape, predominantly located their setts and latrines in or alongside hedgerows. In addition, for the first time, we show that badgers selectively foraged along field boundaries, with this behaviour perhaps linked to a greater diversity of dietary items in hedgerows and the potential cover from perceived threats offered by dense undergrowth. This preferential use of man-made landscape features has implications for how we assess habitat use in this species and perhaps also for modelling studies of bovine tuberculosis transmission in agricultural landscapes.
KeywordsBadger Hedgerows Foraging behaviour Setts Latrines
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