Changes in the prevalence of badger persecution in Northern Ireland.

Neil Reid, Gavin J. Wilson, W. Ian Montgomery, Robbie .A. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Animal populations generally increase after release from hunting pressure and/or cessation of illegal persecution. Implementation of full legislative protection of the Eurasian badger Meles meles in Great Britain is thought to have led to increases in badger abundance due to reduced levels of persecution. Conversely, prevalence of badger persecution in Northern Ireland was historically much higher than in Great Britain, and badger abundance remained stable over time despite similar legislative protection. We examined temporal changes in the prevalence of badger sett disturbance in Northern Ireland from 1990/1993 to 2007/2008 in relation to population status. A total of 56 (12.6%) of 445 setts surveyed during 1990/1993 had been disturbed compared to 29 (4.4%) of 653 setts during 2007/2008. This was a significant decline (-65%) in the incidence of sett disturbance over the 14–18-year period. Most notably, the incidence of digging at badger setts, indicative of local badger baiting activity, declined from 50% to 3.5% of disturbed setts. Signs of recent disturbance were significantly more frequent at disused setts suggesting that once disturbed, badgers may vacate a sett. The number of badger social groups in Northern Ireland did not differ between the two study periods, suggesting that previously high levels of badger persecution did not limit the number of badger social groups. The stability of the badger population in Northern Ireland compared to the growing population in Great Britain cannot be attributed to changes in the prevalence of persecution. Differences in the trajectories of both populations could be due to a range of factors including climate, habitat composition and structure, farming practices or food availability. More work is needed to determine how such factors influence badger population dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-183
Issue number1
Early online date20 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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