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Abundance of hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in relation to the density and distribution of badgers (Meles meles)

By R.P. Young, J. Davison, I.D. Trewby, G.J. Wilson, R.J. Delahay and C.P. Doncaster

Abstract

Badgers Meles meles are intraguild predators of hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus and have been shown to have a major effect on their abundance and behaviour at a localized scale. Previous studies have predicted the exclusion of hedgehogs from rural habitats in areas where badgers are abundant. The two species coexist at the landscape scale, however, as hedgehogs use suburban habitats, which are thought to provide a refuge from the effects of badger predation. We carried out surveys of hedgehog abundance and studied the use of spatial refugia by hedgehogs in relation to badger density and distribution in 10 study sites in the Midlands and south-west regions of England. Surveys confirmed that hedgehogs were almost absent from pasture fields in rural habitats, with their distribution concentrated in amenity grassland fields in suburban areas. However, although suburban habitats are less frequently used by badgers than rural areas, and therefore represented spatial refugia for hedgehogs, the probability of occurrence and abundance of hedgehogs varied in relation to the density of badger setts in the surrounding area. As sett density increased, both the probability of occurrence of hedgehogs and their abundance decreased. A generalized linear model predicted that the probability of hedgehog occurrence in suburban habitats declined towards zero in areas of high badger density. The most probable explanation is the negative effect of high badger abundance on the ability of hedgehogs to move between patches of suburban habitat. The present study concords with results from previous surveys and experimental studies, which found a strong negative spatial relationship between hedgehogs and badgers. It also provides correlative evidence that intraguild predation can exclude intraguild prey from productive habitats

Topics: QL, QH301
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.soton.ac.uk:39154
Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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