Studies relating to the population dynamics of the European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland

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Byrne, Andrew William
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University College Cork
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European badgers (Meles meles) are an important part of the Irish ecosystem; they are a component of Ireland’s native fauna and are afforded protection by national and international laws. The species is also a reservoir host for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and implicated in the epidemiology of bTB in cattle. Due to this latter point, badgers have been culled in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) in areas where persistent cattle bTB outbreaks exist. The population dynamics of badgers are therefore of great pure and applied interest. The studies within this thesis used large datasets and a number of analytical approaches to uncover essential elements of badger populations in the ROI. Furthermore, a review and meta-analysis of all available data on Irish badgers was completed to give a framework from which key knowledge gaps and future directions could be identified (Chapter 1). One main finding suggested that badger densities are significantly reduced in areas of repeated culling, as revealed through declining trends in signs of activity (Chapter 2) and capture numbers (Chapter 2 and Chapter 3). Despite this, the trappability of badgers was shown to be lower than previously thought. This indicates that management programmes would require repeated long-term efforts to be effective (Chapter 4). Mark-recapture modelling of a population (sample area: 755km2) suggested that mean badger density was typical of continental European populations, but substantially lower than British populations (Chapter 4). Badger movement patterns indicated that most of the population exhibited site fidelity. Long-distance movements were also recorded, the longest of which (20.1km) was the greatest displacement of an Irish badger currently known (Chapter 5). The studies presented in this thesis allows for the development of more robust models of the badger population at national scales (see Future Directions). Through the use of large-scale datasets future models will facilitate informed sustainable planning for disease control.
European badger , Meles meles , Population estimation , Movement and dispersal
Byrne, A. W., 2013. Studies relating to the population dynamics of the European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.