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Effect of badger culling on local hedgehog populations

I. D. Trewby, R. Young, R. A. McDonald, G. J. Wilson and others

THE distribution and abundance of top predators in an ecosystem could have major impacts on mesopredator (medium-sized predator) populations. The European badger (Meles meles) is a top predator, while the western European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is a mesopredator. Badgers are known to prey directly on hedgehogs and the two species share many of the same food sources. This study aimed to assess the effect of badger culling on local hedgehog populations.

The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), undertaken in the UK between 1998 and 2006, was a field experiment designed to assess the effect of culling badgers on the incidence of bovine TB. The study saw the establishment of 10 ‘triplets’, each composed of matched trial areas, which were randomly assigned to either proactive badger culling; localised reactive culling following the identification of TB in cattle; and control areas in which no culling occurred. Four of the 10 areas were considered in the current study. The RBCT ran for between four and six years in all of the areas studied, and hedgehog surveys were carried out three …

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