Animal movement is a key part of population ecology, helping us understand how species use their environment and maintain viable populations. In many territorial species, most movements occur within a home range. Occasionally, however, individuals make long-distance movements.
Long-distance movements are important: they ensure that populations mix and do not inbreed, but they can also spread infection between populations. They are also rare, so long-distance movements are difficult to study and require large, long-term studies.
Because of their importance as a reservoir for bTB, badgers are a well-studied species. While we know a great deal about how badgers move in and around their home territories, very little is known about rare long-distance movements and nothing about how often badgers travel these long distances.
To answer these questions, scientists from Ireland and Canada studied badger movements for four years across a 755km2 area of County Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland the largest spatial-scale badger study of its type ever conducted in Europe.
Dr Andrew Byrne of University College Dublin, who led the research while at University College Cork, said: "To study these longer distance movements, a correspondingly large study area is required. And because very long-distance movements occur infrequently, a large sampling effort is required to pick up such events."
Between 2008 and 2012, the team tagged and tattooed 963 badgers at their setts, measuring how far these badgers had travelled when they were next trapped. Although on average the badgers only dispersed 2.6km from their setts, five per cent of these movements were over 7.5km, and the longest recorded distance a badger travelled was 22.1km.
"These long-distance movements may be important for 'seeding' infection, if an infected animal moves to a TB-free location. Overall, long-distance dispersal of infected badgers may allow TB bacteria, '/>"/>
|Contact: Becky Allen|