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Byrne, AW,O'Keeffe, J,Sleeman, DP,Davenport, J,Martin, SW
2013
January
European Journal of Wildlife Research
Impact of culling on relative abundance of the European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland
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European badger Meles meles Population control intervention Bovine tuberculosis Culling Indices of abundance REPUBLIC-OF-IRELAND TUBERCULOSIS ERADICATION BOVINE TUBERCULOSIS VULPES-VULPES RACCOON DOG RED FOXES REMOVAL POPULATION DENSITY NUMBERS
59
25
37
The European Badger (Meles meles) has been implicated in the epidemiology of bovine tuberculosis in cattle populations in the Republic of Ireland. Badger populations have been subject to a culling regime in areas with chronic histories of bTB cattle herd breakdowns. Removal data from 2004 to 2010 were used to model the impact of culling on populations in areas under capture. Additionally, changes in field signs of badger activity were used as an index of abundance to support, or otherwise, the outcomes of the removal models. Significant reductions in standardised badger captures over time were found across three large study areas (total area, 1,355 km(2)). Assuming that all inactive setts were vacant, an overall linear trend model suggested that badger captures had decreased by 78 % for setts with 6 years of repeated capturing operations. Given the uncertainty associated with the relationship between sett activity and badger presence, we repeated the linear modelling using two 'what if' scenarios. Assuming that individual badgers were missed on 10 % or 20 % of occasions at inactive setts, the estimated decline over 6 years is lowered to 71 % or 64 %, respectively. The decline profile consisted of a steep initial decrease in captures within the first 2 years, followed by a more gradual decrease thereafter. The number of active openings at setts (burrows) declined significantly in all three areas; but the magnitude of this decline varied significantly amongst study areas (41-82 %). There was a significant increase in the probability of setts becoming dormant with time. The removal programme was more intense (mean, 0.45 badgers culled km(-2) year(-1)) than previous experimental badger removals in Ireland but some captures may be attributed to immigrant badgers as no attempt was made to limit inward dispersal from areas not under management. Results from this study suggest that significant reductions in badger density occurred in the areas where management had taken place. Since other non-culled badger populations in Northern Ireland and Britain exhibited stable population trends, we attribute the reduction in relative abundance to the culling regime. Further studies of the dynamics of this reduction are required to quantify how it is counteracted by immigration from populations outside of culled areas.
DOI 10.1007/s10344-012-0643-1
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