Variations in scent-marking behaviour of European badgers Meles meles in the vicinity of their setts
Buesching CD., Macdonald DW.
For European badgers Meles meles (Linnaeus, 1758), the importance of olfactory signals located at home-range borders in the context of territoriality has been widely accepted. Badgers, however, also scent mark far from their borders, often in the vicinity of their communal sett. Little is known about the significance of these marks in intra-specific communication. Here, we investigated the patterns of object-marking with subcaudal gland secretions close to the sett. Using remote-controlled, battery-powered infra-red video equipment, we recorded 442 incidences of object-marking between April 1996 and June 1997. The frequency of object marking varied significantly in relation to season, sex, age and reproductive status. In both sexes, relative object-marking rates were highest during the mating season, when individuals in reproductive condition marked significantly more often than non-reproductive animals. During the cub-rearing season females marked at a significantly higher rate than males, and in both sexes adults scent-marked significantly more frequently than younger individuals. Approximately 30% of all scent-marks received an over-mark within 24 h of their deposit. In males over-marking behaviour was recorded only during the mating season, whereas females over-marked in all seasons at equal rates. Overall, our results suggest that in addition to their territorial functions, subcaudal scent-marks also serve as individual-specific advertisement signals directed at other group-members.