Monitoring and population estimation of the European badger Meles meles in Northern Ireland

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

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29 Citations (Scopus)
313 Downloads (Pure)


The estimation of animal abundance has a central role in wildlife management and research, including the role of badgers Meles meles in bovine tuberculosis transmission to cattle. This is the first study to examine temporal change in the badger population of Northern Ireland over a medium- to long-term time frame of 14-18 years by repeating a national survey first conducted during 1990-1993. A total of 212 1-km² squares were surveyed during 2007-2008 and the number, type and activity of setts therein recorded. Badgers were widespread with 75% of squares containing at least one sett. The mean density of active main setts, which was equivalent to badger social group density, was 0.56 (95% CI: 0.46-0.67) active main setts per km2 during 2007-2008. Social group density varied significantly among land class groups and counties. The total number of social groups was estimated at 7,600 (95% CI: 6,200-9,000) and, not withstanding probable sources of error in estimating social group size, the total abundance of badgers was estimated to be 34,100 (95% CI: 26,200-42,000). There was no significant change in the badger population from that recorded during 1990-1993. A resource selection model provided a relative probability of sett construction at a spatial scale of 25m. Sett locations were negatively associated with elevation and positively associated with slope, aspect, soil sand content, the presence of cover, and the area of improved grassland and arable agriculture within 300 m.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-57
JournalWildlife Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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