Demographic correlates of bite wounding in Eurasian badgers, Meles meles L., in stable and perturbed populations
Delahay RJ., Walker NJ., Forrester GJ., Harmsen B., Riordan P., Macdonald DW., Newman C., Cheeseman CL.
In the U.K., Eurasian badgers often live in social groups and defend a collective territory. Aggressive encounters between badgers may lead to bite wounds, which can be severe and may be a potential route of disease transmission. Using data obtained over a 5-year period, we compared patterns of bite wounding in three badger populations of differing population density and culling history in southwest and southern England. Data from 4312 live-trapping events were analysed. Bite wounds were more likely in adult badgers than in cubs, and in males than in females. Males were also more likely to have multiple bites. Bite wounding varied seasonally, peaking during December to February. Most bite wounds in adult males were on the rump, whereas females and cubs were more likely to have been bitten on the head. Bite wounds were more likely in badgers in poor body condition. The incidence of bite wounds was not related to study site or population density, but varied significantly between years. Complex interactive effects suggested that patterns of bite wounding may vary over time and at a local scale. Although culling-induced social perturbation was not associated with higher levels of bite wounding, there was evidence that female badgers endured higher rates of biting during recolonization. © 2006 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.