Silva, M., Rosalino, L.M., Alcobia, S. & Santos-Reis, M. (2021) Sett use, density and breeding phenology of badgers in Mediterranean agro-sylvo-pastoral systems.Animals, 11(9), 2663. DOI:10.3390/ani11092663 (IF2020 1,654; Q1 Veterinary Sciences)
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/km2), 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.