Badger (Taxidea Taxus) Resource Selection and Spatial Ecology in Intensive Agricultural Landscapes

By Duquette, Jared F.; Gehrt, Stanley D. et al. | The American Midland Naturalist, January 2014 | Go to article overview

Badger (Taxidea Taxus) Resource Selection and Spatial Ecology in Intensive Agricultural Landscapes


Duquette, Jared F., Gehrt, Stanley D., Ver Steeg, Barbara, Warner, Richard E., The American Midland Naturalist


ABSTRACT.-American badgers (Taxidea taxus) are a prairie obligate species, but badger resource selection and space use is poorly understood, particularly east of the Mississippi River where anthropogenic land uses have replaced most native prairie. We assessed badger multi-scale resource selection and space use in intensive agricultural areas in Illinois and Ohio. We predicted that badgers would select for pasture and prairie, and higher elevations, and riparian areas because these habitats likely favor burrowing and foraging. Conversely, badgers should avoid cropland, roads, and forest at both spatial scales because these habitats may limit burrowing and foraging and potentially increase mortality risk. We also predicted annual male space use would increase with age and be greater than females because of age-related dominance and polygynous mating. We used radiolocations from 18 (11 females, seven males) and five (two females, three males) badgers in Illinois and Ohio, respectively, to estimate space use and multi-spatial scale resource selection. Within study areas, badgers strongly selected for cropland and higher elevations, and a lesser extent upland forest and pasture, but avoided roads and riparian areas. Landcover selection within home ranges varied by study area, but generally, badgers strongly selected for pasture, cropland, prairie, or higher elevation. Median annual 95% fixed kernel areas of Illinois badgers were greater (W^sub 8^ = 16.00, P = 0.007) for males than females, and most males appeared to overlap two to three females during the breeding season. We suggest, although our study areas were highly fragmented agricultural landscapes, badgers appeared to select land cover types similar to native prairie, which provided burrowing and foraging opportunities. However, because prairie and pasture were relatively limited, badgers used expansive ... home ranges to meet life requirements. Therefore, degradation and fragmentation of limiting resources may limit badger population growth in our study areas and should be considered for future management.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

INTRODUCTION

Selection of resources disproportionate to availability is generally thought to reflect resource use which improves animal fitness (Burt, 1943; Börger et al., 2008). Disproportionate selection of resources is related to resource quality and availability (Manly et al., 2002), and distribution of one or several limiting resources on a landscape can influence animal spatial ecology (Mitchell and Powell, 2004). Multi-spatial scale analyses of animal resource use are commonly used (e.g., Reyna-Hurtado et al., 2009; Vanak and Gompper, 2010) because animals select resources disproportionately depending on spatial scale. For example, animals commonly select resources disproportionately within a defined study area (second-order selection) or within their home ranges (third-order selection; Johnson, 1980). Therefore, assessments of multi-spatial scale resource selection can provide valuable inference of the relative need of resources to animals, particularly within highly fragmented landscapes.

Anthropogenic land use has extensively fragmented and reduced much of the native prairie in the midwestern United States (Mehaffey et al, 2012). Mainly, native prairie in this region was extensively depleted by intensive agricultural practices and urbanization, which has led to severe population declines in numerous prairie dependent species (Herkert, 1994). Despite these losses, American badger (Taxidea taxus) range expansions likely have been suggested in Indiana (Lyon, 1932; Berkley and Johnson, 1998), Ohio (Moseley, 1934; Leedy, 1947; Nugent and Choate, 1970), and Illinois (Gremillion-Smith 1985; Ver Steeg and Warner, 2000) and primarily attributed to deforestation for agriculture. Although range expansions likely have occurred, it remains unclear how badgers have responded to increased agriculture and native prairie loss east of the Mississippi River. …

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