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Dispersal and philopatry in the European badger, Meles meles

Authors

  • Rosie Woodroffe,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
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    • *Department of Zoology, Downing Street, Combridge CB 23EJ, UK

  • D. W. Macdonald,

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
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  • J. da Silva

    1. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK
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    • **Department of Biology, Laurentian University, Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 2C6, Canada


Abstract

In comparison with other carnivores, European badgers, Meles meles L., show an unusually high degree of natal philopatry. In this paper, we present data on temporary and permanent movements between groups, in both male and female badgers, in a moderately high density population. A relatively small proportion of males dispersed, alone, to neighbouring territories. Dispersing males were larger than those remaining in their natal groups, and following dispersal they had higher testosterone titres and maintained testicular activity for a greater part of the year. Circumstantial evidence suggests that immigrants were the principal breeding males in their new territories. Dispersal was slightly more common in females, which dispersed away from large groups, where their chances of breeding were relatively low. Females dispersed in coalitions of 2–3, over longer distances, to territories occupied by single females. Resident females disappeared following the arrival of the immigrants, suggesting that territory ‘takeovers’ may have occurred. Members of both sexes also made temporary ‘visits’ to neighbouring territories, probably to obtain extra-group matings. Comparison with other badger populations suggests that the frequency of male dispersal declines at high population densities. In contrast, there is no effect of density on female dispersal, which occurs only rarely in some other populations. We suggest that the pattern of female/female competition is too complex to be explained solely in terms of variation in population density.

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