Restricted ranging behaviour in a high-density population of urban badgers


  • Editor: Prof. Nigel C. Bennett

John Davison, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Vanemuise 46, Tartu 51014, Estonia.


By studying the responses of different species to urbanization, it is possible to understand the impact of this type of habitat modification and to explore, more generally, the link between variations in the environment and changes in behaviour. We radio collared 17 badgers Meles meles from six social groups in a 1 km2 urban study area in Brighton, UK, where local badger population density was high, and collected data on their ranging behaviour between 2005 and 2007. We aimed to determine how badgers adapt their behaviour to an urban environment and to assess the generality of previously reported differences in the ranging and territorial behaviour of urban and rural badgers. Analysis of habitat preferences and movement patterns suggested that garden habitat was principally used for foraging, while scrub and allotment habitats were important in allowing animals to travel from one part of their range to another. Group and individual home ranges were the smallest so far recorded for badgers (mean 100% minimum convex polygons=9.26 and 4.91 ha, respectively). Individual range size was negatively correlated with the availability of garden habitat, suggesting that the rich food resources provided by gardens enabled ranges to be small. Group ranges were mostly non-contiguous and there was no evidence of territorial scent marking; rather, activity was mainly restricted to areas in the vicinity of main setts. It is clear that badgers can adapt successfully to urban habitats and that this process affects various aspects of their behaviour. However, our high-density population of urban badgers displayed patterns of behaviour that differed not only from those of typical rural badgers, but also in some respects from those of a previously studied low-density urban population. We conclude that generalizations about the effects of urbanization must be made with caution.