At Trinity College Dublin, zoologists have uncovered new ranging travel patterns in badgers which might help stop the spread of TB in cattle.
Investigators working on a project with the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) tagged badgers and subsequently discovered that some male badgers, typically younger males, did not adhere to the previously understood territories occupied by groups of badgers.
Instead, these ‘super ranger’ badgers travelled much further than marked out territories of their fellow group badgers. Groups of badgers mostly occupy one area and seldom stray from it for years. These ranger badgers are much more likely to end up with other groups of badgers living further afield, therefore increasing the risk of spreading diseases such as TB.
‘Super ranging’ constitutes a newly discovered behavioural phenomenon, and the research has been published in the international journal ‘Plosone’.
According to Aoibheann Gaughran, PhD researcher in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences and lead author on the paper, the researchers used GPS satellite trackers to follow where 50 badgers went over a period of time.
Ms Gaughran said the new research on super ranging could mean younger adult males could be specifically targeted for vaccination, which in turn might limit the likelihood of TB being spread over wider areas.