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Scent Marking With Faeces and Anal Secretion in the European Badger (Meles Meles): Seasonal and Spatial Characteristics of Latrine Use in Relation To Territoriality

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Badgers (Meles meles) defecate and scent mark in open pits ('dung pits') which seem to have territorial significance. We carried out a year-round survey of badger defecation sites in order to assess seasonal and spatial characteristics of site use. Our results show that badgers defecate at two different types of site, which we refer to as 'latrines' and 'temporary defecation sites' (TDS's) respectively. Latrines are relatively large aggregations of dung pits (up to 25 separate pits) that are visited year-round; they are largest in spring (April) and autumn (October); they are more numerous around the perimeter of a territory; they are associated with fences and roads; and they often contain anal-gland secretion as well as faeces. TDS's, by contrast, are single dung pits or small aggregations of pits that are used only once or twice and are then abandoned; they are most numerous in mid-winter (December and January); they are scattered throughout the territory both close to and away from fences and roads; and they do not usually contain anal secretion. Spatial and seasonal changes in frequency of TDS's are shown to correlate with food availability and with foraging behaviour, and we conclude that TDS's have no special function beyond elimination of faeces. Latrines, however, do seem to have communicatory significance, and we conclude that they are concerned with territory defence. Since seasonal changes in latrine use correlate more closely with mating than with food availability we suggest that territoriality in badgers may be related more to defence of oestrus females by resident males than to defence of food resources.

Affiliations: 1: School of Biology, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, U.K.

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