Reproduction success in European badgers, red foxes and raccoon dogs in relation to sett cohabitation.
ABSTRACT: The setts of the European badger Meles meles can be cohabited during reproductive season by the red fox Vulpes vulpes and raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides. There is no information on the possible impact of both species on the size of badgers' litter. The aim of the study was to show the influence of cohabitation of the same setts by badger, raccoon dog and fox on the litter size. The research was conducted in 2012-2014 and 2018 in the lowland forests of western Poland. We conducted the survey of setts by direct observations and analysis of photographic material from trap cameras during mid-April-July each year. We recorded 85 badger litters, 18 fox litters, and 15 raccoon dog litters. Average litter size was 1.71 (±0.90), 2.44 (±1.34) and 4.93 (±2.76) litter mates in badgers, foxes and raccoon dogs, respectively for all observed pairs. Badger litter size did not differ between setts used only by badgers including pairs with no cubs (1.66 ± 0.98) and cohabited with foxes (1.90 ± 0.32) or raccoon dogs (1.88 ± 0.81). However, foxes reared even more cubs in setts cohabited with badgers than when badger was absent (2.90 ± 1.37 vs. 1.88 ± 1.13 respectively). In the case of raccoon dogs, there were no differences in the mean number of their cubs in setts with badgers (5.25 ± 2.92) and without badgers (4.57 ± 2.76). The results indicate that the cohabitation of setts by badgers, foxes and raccoon dogs does not affect litter size negatively.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Anaplasma phagocytophilum is an obligate parasitic intracellular bacterium. It is the causative agent of granulocytic anaplasmosis, with effects on human and animal health. In Europe, the pathogen is mainly transmitted among a wide range of vertebrate hosts by blood-sucking arthropods. The aim of this study was to determine the presence of A. phagocytophilum in wild carnivores, viz raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides), badgers (Meles meles), foxes (Vulpes vulpes), martens (Martes sp.) and European polecats (Mustela putorius), using molecular methods. METHODS:In the present study, 174 spleen samples were collected from adult, wild carnivores hunted in the years 2013-2016. A short fragment (383 bp) of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene partial sequence was used as a marker to identify A. phagocytophilum in spleen samples collected from carnivores using nested PCR. RESULTS:The prevalence of A. phagocytophilum in wild carnivores was 31.61% (55/174). Seven sequences of A. phagocytophilum were generated from two raccoon dogs, two badgers, one marten, one red fox and one European polecat. Six identical nucleotide sequences were obtained from one raccoon dog, two badgers, one marten, one red fox and one European polecat (A. phagocytophilum sequences 1: MH328205-MH328209, MH328211), and these were identical to many A. phagocytophilum sequences in the GenBank database (100% similarity). The second sequence (A. phagocytophilum sequence 2: MH328210) obtained from the raccoon dog shared 99.74% identity with A. phagocytophilum sequence 1. CONCLUSIONS:To our knowledge, this is the first study to use molecular methods to determine the presence of A. phagocytophilum in wild carnivores, viz raccoon dog, badger, marten and European polecat, in Poland. The detected A. phagocytophilum sequences (1 and 2) were closely related with those of A. phagocytophilum occurring in a wide range of wild and domestic animals and vectors.
Project description:Carnivores social organization varies widely, from strongly social to solitary predators. European badgers are facultative social carnivores that also shows a geographical variation in social structure. These patterns derive mainly from central/west European regions, with an under-representation of Mediterranean populations that face different conservation challenges, especially regarding group composition, sett use patterns and breeding phenology. We addressed these traits topics for a population inhabiting a Portuguese agro-silvo-pastoral system. Based on monthly monitoring of 34 setts and continuous camera-trapping surveys of 12, we showed that setts surrounded by diversified vegetation and located in sandy sites are more used, a pattern probably linked to food availability and ease of sett excavation and maintenance, respectively. Badgers followed a general pattern regarding group size (2-4 adults), but showed an intermediate population density (0.49-0.73 badgers/km<sup>2</sup>), with values higher than those estimated for other Mediterranean environments, but lower than for central-western populations. This, together with the breeding (November/January) and cub emergence (1.8 cubs/sett; March/April) periods, indicates an ecological adaptation to the landscape context, where human-related resources and mild environmental conditions allow badger to reach higher densities than in many southern populations, and to reproduce earlier than their northern counterparts.
Project description:In Great Britain and Ireland, badgers (Meles meles) are a wildlife reservoir of Mycobacterium bovis and implicated in bovine tuberculosis transmission to domestic cattle. The route of disease transmission is unknown with direct, so-called "nose-to-nose," contact between hosts being extremely rare. Camera traps were deployed for 64,464 hr on 34 farms to quantify cattle and badger visitation rates in space and time at six farm locations. Badger presence never coincided with cattle presence at the same time, with badger and cattle detection at the same location but at different times being negatively correlated. Badgers were never recorded within farmyards during the present study. Badgers utilized cattle water troughs in fields, but detections were infrequent (equivalent to one badger observed drinking every 87 days). Cattle presence at badger-associated locations, for example, setts and latrines, were three times more frequent than badger presence at cattle-associated locations, for example, water troughs. Preventing cattle access to badger setts and latrines and restricting badger access to cattle water troughs may potentially reduce interspecific bTB transmission through reduced indirect contact.
Project description:The deployment of baits containing vaccines or toxins has been used successfully in the management of wildlife populations, including for disease control. Optimisation of deployment strategies seeks to maximise uptake by the targeted population whilst ensuring cost-effectiveness. Tuberculosis (TB) caused by infection with Mycobacterium bovis affects a broad range of mammalian hosts across the globe, including cattle, wildlife and humans. The control of TB in cattle in the UK and Republic of Ireland is hampered by persistent infection in European badgers (Meles meles). The present study aimed to determine the best strategy for maximising uptake of an oral vaccine by wild badgers, using a surrogate novel bait deployed at 40 badger social groups. Baits contained a blood-borne biomarker (Iophenoxic Acid, IPA) in order to measure consumption in badgers subsequently cage trapped at targeted setts. Evidence for the consumption of bait was found in 83% (199/240) of captured badgers. The probability that badgers had consumed at least one bait (IPA >10 ?g ml-1) was significantly higher following deployment in spring than in summer. Lower uptake amongst social groups where more badgers were captured, suggested competition for baits. The probability of bait consumption was significantly higher at groups where main and outlier setts were provided with baits than at those where outliers were present but not baited. Badgers captured 10-14 days post bait feeding had significantly higher levels of bait uptake compared to those caught 24-28 days later. Uptake rates did not vary significantly in relation to badger age and whether bait was placed above ground or down setts. This study suggests that high levels of bait uptake can be achieved in wild badger populations and identifies factors influencing the potential success of different deployment strategies. The implications for the development of an oral badger vaccine are discussed.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Oral rabies vaccination (ORV) in rabies infected regions should target the primary rabies vector species, which in Lithuania includes raccoon dogs as well as red foxes. Specific investigations on ORV in raccoon dogs are needed e.g. evaluation of vaccine effectiveness under field conditions. The objective of the current study was to investigate the efficacy of the ORV programme 2006-2010 in Lithuania by examining the number of rabies cases and estimating the prevalences of a tetracycline biomarker (TTC) and rabies virus antibodies in raccoon dogs.<h4>Methods</h4>From 2006 to 2010, 12.5 million rabies vaccine-baits were distributed by aircraft. Baiting occurred twice per year (spring and autumn), targeting raccoon dogs and red foxes in a 63,000 km2 area of Lithuania. The mandibles of raccoon dogs found dead or killed in the vaccination area were analyzed by fluorescence microscopy for the presence of the TTC. Rabies virus sera neutralizing anti-glycoprotein antibody titres were determined using an indirect ELISA method and seroconversion (> 0.5 EU/ml) rates were estimated.<h4>Results</h4>During the study period, 51.5% of raccoon dog mandibles were positive for TTC. 1688 of 3260 tested adults and 69 of 175 tested cubs were TTC positive. Forty-seven percent of raccoon dog serum samples were positive for rabies virus antibodies. 302 of 621 investigated adults and 33 of 95 investigated cubs were seropositive. In the same time 302 of 684 and 43 of 124 tested samples were TTC and ELISA positive in spring; whereas 1455 of 2751 and 292 of 592 tested samples were TTC and ELISA positive in autumn. There was a positive correlation between the number of TTC and antibody positive animals for both adult and cub groups.<h4>Conclusions</h4>ORV was effective in reducing the prevalence of rabies in the raccoon dog population in Lithuania. The prevalence of rabies cases in raccoon dogs in Lithuania decreased from 60.7% in 2006-2007 to 6.5% in 2009-2010.
Project description:The European badger (Meles meles) is of considerable interest in the UK as it is both a protected species and the main wildlife reservoir for bovine tuberculosis infection in cattle. While there have been three national badger surveys in the 1980s, 1990s and 2011-13, using the number of badger main setts as a proxy for the abundance of badger social groups, none has combined contemporary data on social group size at landscape and national scales. We estimated social group size by genotyping hair samples collected at 120 main setts across England and Wales and employing a capture-mark-recapture method based on genotypes. The estimated mean social group size in England and Wales was 6.74 (±0.63) badgers. There was considerable variation in badger social group size among Land Class Groups (LCGs), with a low of 2.67 in LCG3 and a high of 7.92 in LCG4. Combining these results with the recent Badger Sett Survey of England and Wales, we estimate there are approximately 485,000 badgers (95% confidence intervals 391,000-581,000) in England and Wales. Although direct comparison with previous estimates is not ideal owing to methodological differences, our results are consistent with a marked increase in the badger population of England and Wales since the 1980s.
Project description:In the United Kingdom, European badgers Meles meles are a protected species and an important wildlife reservoir of bovine tuberculosis. We conducted a survey of badger dens (main setts) in 1614 1 km squares across England and Wales, between November 2011 and March 2013. Using main setts as a proxy for badger social groups, the estimated mean density of badger social groups in England and Wales was 0.485 km(-2) (95% confidence interval 0.449-0.521) and the estimated abundance of social groups was 71,600 (66,400-76,900). In the 25 years since the first survey in 1985-88, the annual rate of increase in the estimated number of badger social groups was 2.6% (2.2-2.9%), equating to an 88% (70-105%) increase across England and Wales. In England, we estimate there has been an increase of 103% (83-123%) in badger social groups, while in Wales there has been little change (-25 to +49%).
Project description:Increasing urbanisation and growth of many wild animal populations can result in a greater frequency of human-wildlife conflicts. However, traditional lethal methods of wildlife control are becoming less favoured than non-lethal approaches, particularly when problems involve charismatic species in urban areas. Eurasian badgers (<i>Meles meles</i>) excavate subterranean burrow systems (setts), which can become large and complex. Larger setts within which breeding takes place and that are in constant use are known as main setts. Smaller, less frequently occupied setts may also exist within the social group's range. When setts are excavated in urban environments they can undermine built structures and can limit or prevent safe use of the area by people. The most common approach to resolving these problems in the UK is to exclude badgers from the problem sett, but exclusions suffer a variable success rate. We studied 32 lawful cases of badger exclusions using one-way gates throughout England to evaluate conditions under which attempts to exclude badgers from their setts in urban environments were successful. We aimed to identify ways of modifying practices to improve the chances of success. Twenty of the 32 exclusion attempts were successful, but success was significantly less likely if a main sett was to be excluded in comparison with another type of sett and if vegetation was not completely removed from the sett surface prior to exclusion attempts. We recommend that during exclusions all vegetation is removed from the site, regardless of what type of sett is involved, and that successful exclusion of badgers from a main sett might require substantially more effort than other types of sett.
Project description:<i>Capillaria plica</i> is a parasitic nematode belonging to the family Capillariidae. The adult parasites reside in the urinary tract of wild and domestic canines. The infection is most often asymptomatic, but can cause a wide range of symptoms including urinary bladder inflammation, pollacisuria, dysuria and hematuria. Canines acquire the infection by ingesting the intermediate host, the earthworm (Lumbricidae). Epidemiological studies on <i>C. plica</i> infection in wildlife are few and only one previous Danish study examined the prevalence in red foxes, while studies on prevalence in other animals are limited. We examined the urine sediment or urinary bladder from 375 Raccoon dogs (<i>Nyctereutes procyonoides</i>), 247 red foxes (<i>Vulpes vulpes</i>), 20 beech martens (<i>Martes foina</i>), 16 wild mink (<i>Neovison vison</i>), 14 otters (<i>Lutra lutra</i>), nine European polecats (<i>Mustela putorius</i>), three European badgers (<i>Meles meles</i>) and one golden jackal (<i>Canis aureus</i>) received as a part of Danish wildlife surveillance. <i>Capillaria plica</i> was detected in 73.7% of red foxes, 20.0% of beech martens, 0.5% of raccoon dogs, and in the Golden jackal. Red foxes originating from all 5 regions of Denmark were infected, although with a significantly higher prevalence in the three regions in Jutland compared to Region Zealand.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The abuse of antibiotics in animal husbandry imposes a serious threat to both animal health and the environment. As a replacement for antibiotics, probiotic products have been widely used in livestock farming to promote growth of animals. However, no products specifically developed for farmed raccoon dogs and foxes are commercially available at the moment. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of mixed probiotics on farmed raccoon dogs and foxes. RESULTS:Two feeding trials on farmed raccoon dogs and foxes were performed. A mixed probiotic preparation composed of Bifidobacterium bifidum, Clostridium butyricum, Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis was fed to these two canine species in order to assess whether such a mixed probiotics can be an alternative to antibiotics (control group). The body weight of raccoon dogs exhibited an increasing tendency with mixed probiotics administration, while that of foxes did not. The serum antioxidant activity was evaluated, and a significantly increase of total antioxidative capacity (T-AOC) was observed in both species. Illumina MiSeq was used for the sequencing of 16S rRNA genes to compare the composition of fecal microbiota between the control and mixed probiotics groups. Although ?-diversity did not change, ?-diversity of the fecal microbiota showed a distinct dissimilarity between the control and probiotics groups of both raccoon dogs and foxes. Dietary mixed probiotics increased the abundance of the genus Bifidobacterium in the fecal samples of raccoon dogs, and the genus Bacillus in the fecal samples of foxes. The different responses of raccoon dogs and foxes to probiotics might be the result of differences in the composition of the native gut microbiota of the two species. CONCLUSIONS:The mixed probiotics preparation composed of Bifidobacterium bifidum, Clostridium butyricum, Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformis could be an effective feed additive for the improvement of the health of farmed raccoon dogs, but it may not be suitable for foxes.