Bovine tuberculosis in badgers in four areas in Ireland: does tuberculosis cluster?

Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Clinical Research Building, Ont., N1G 2W1, Guelph, Canada.
Preventive Veterinary Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.51). 06/2003; 59(1-2):103-11. DOI: 10.1016/S0167-5877(03)00055-2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We described the distribution of badger populations in four different areas in the Republic of Ireland. The data came from periodic targeted badger-removal and subsequent post-mortem examinations conducted between 1989 and September 1997, and from a formal badger-removal project in the same areas from 1997 through 1999. Records were complete for 2292 badgers regarding the date of capture, tuberculosis status, geographical area and specific sett from where the badgers were snared. Of 3187 setts, 2290 had no badgers recorded against them (i.e. were inactive). The badger-level prevalence of tuberculosis differed among areas (range 13-29%). Badger populations were highly clustered by sett, and this result was similar over the four study areas. The median number of badgers per active sett was 2. Tuberculous badgers also clustered within a sett. The third quartile of tuberculous badgers was 1 per active sett. The prevalence of tuberculous badgers within a sett was not related to the total number of badgers. There was little evidence of spatial clustering with only one local cluster of tuberculous setts in each of three areas, and none in the fourth area. After adjusting for the number of badgers per sett, only one area had spatial clusters identified.

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    ABSTRACT: The badger is an ecologically and economically important species. Detailed knowledge of aspects of the ecology of this animal in Ireland has only emerged through research over recent decades. Here, we review what is known about the species’ Irish populations and compare these findings with populations in Britain and Europe. Like populations elsewhere, setts are preferentially constructed on south or southeast facing sloping ground in well-drained soil types. Unlike in Britain, Irish badger main setts are less complex and most commonly found in hedgerows. Badgers utilise many habitat types, but greater badger densities have been associated with landscapes with high proportions of pasture and broadleaf woodlands. Badgers in Ireland tend to have seasonally varied diets, with less dependence on earthworms than some other populations in northwest Europe. Recent research suggests that females exhibit later onset and timing of reproductive events, smaller litter sizes and lower loss of blastocysts than populations studied in Britain. Adult social groups in Ireland tend to be smaller than in Britain, though significantly larger than social groups from continental Europe. Although progress has been made in estimating the distribution and density of badger populations, national population estimates have varied widely in the Republic of Ireland. Future research should concentrate on filling gaps in our knowledge, including population models and predictive spatial modelling that will contribute to vaccine delivery, management and conservation strategies.
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