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Keywords:

  • Badger;
  • wildlife management;
  • mustelids;
  • Otter;
  • scent-marking

ABSTRACT

Scent-marking is the primary form of communication for mustelids and is important in understanding their sociobiology. In addition, mustelids interact with managed ecosystems or may themselves be managed. However, little is known about the scent-marking behaviour of most mustelids or the impact of management on this behaviour. Mustelids have a number of different scent mark types that can be used for several possible functions, creating a flexible system of varied scent-marking strategies both across and within species. We review the types of scent marks used by European mustelids in relation to their social systems and consider the various hypotheses proposed for their function. Scent-marking behaviour is not fixed for each species, but varies with habitat and population density. We use Badgers (Meles meles) as an example of mustelids acting as reservoirs of disease and Otters (Lutra lutra) as an example of a key conservation species, to demonstrate the applied importance of understanding natural patterns of mustelid scent-marking strategies and the impact of habitat and population management on them.