Spatial structure and land-cover use in a low-density Mediterranean population of Eurasian badgers
Rosalino LM., Macdonald DW., Santos-Reis M.
Eurasian badgers, Meles meles (L., 1758), have an extensive geographic range throughout which their social organization varies. Their capacity for intraspecific variation can now best be understood by studying them in landscapes that differ from the lush, lowland farmland where their tendency to form large groups has been most intensively investigated. Badgers in cork oak (Quercus suber L.) woodland are thus a priority for study, as this Mediterranean landscape provides an extreme contrast to those studied elsewhere. In this habitat in Portugal, we found 0.36-0.48 badgers/km2, one of the lowest population densities recorded in Western Europe. Here, individuals used seasonally stable home ranges that averaged 4.46 km2 and that were occupied by 3-4 adults plus 3-4 cubs of the year. In this landscape, badgers selectively used cork oak woodland with understory and riparian vegetation. As predicted by the resource dispersion hypothesis, home-range size was positively correlated with food-patch dispersion. In southwestern Portugal, badgers depend upon an environmental mosaic such as olive groves and orchards and vegetable gardens for food and cork oak woodlands for shelter and protection.