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Title: Landscape ecology, diet composition and energetics of the Eurasian badger (Meles meles)
Author: Kostka, Berit Isabel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2742 0670
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2012
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In the British Isles, the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is implicated in the transmission of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) to cattle. Growing concern about the efficacy of disease control measures has necessitated the need for more data on the species' ecology in a range of habitats, as variations in habitat use of badgers in heterogeneous landscapes may have implications for the management of the species as well as bTB. This study used a range of ecological technologies to investigate the variation of badger social group size, diet composition and individual foraging strategies throughout major habitat categories of Northern Ireland, and assessed how underlying physiological determinants of badger behaviour vary under the influence of environmental, life- history and disease effects. Badger social groups were overall smaller in landscape dominated by improved pasture and larger in areas with less 'suitable' habitat, although within habitat categories, there was considerable variation in social group size. Diet of badgers was mainly composed of vertebrates and earthworms, but particularly in upland areas was also supplemented with plant material. Some degree of specialisation on specific food items was detected throughout whole social groups located in 'prime' badger habitat, whereas badgers inhabiting less favourable habitat seemed to adopt unique foraging strategies within the same group. Investigations into the energy requirements of badgers revealed energetic benefits for badgers that were part of larger social groups compared to badgers that lived in smaller social groups. The high ecological plasticity of badgers throughout the landscape detected in this study largely stands in contrast to findings available from areas in Great Britain. Therefore, further knowledge on badger population structure and habitat use is required particularly for areas reflecting the majority of the landscape in the British Isles as well as at specific localities for an area-specific risk assessment for the transmission of bTB.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available