Badgers could be travelling much greater distances than previously supposed, a finding that might affect how the animals are culled or vaccinated to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

Andrew Byrne at University College Dublin and his colleagues marked 963 European badgers (Meles meles; pictured) between 2008 and 2012 and later recaptured them to determine their movements across 755 square kilometres of County Kilkenny in Ireland. Roughly half of the recaptures took place at the same burrows where an individual was originally captured. Of the remaining animals, 43% travelled less than 1 km. But some ventured relatively long distances: 5% of movements were over 7.3 km and one animal travelled over 22 km.

Credit: David J. Slater/Alamy

The authors suggest that officials seeking to confine disease to specific areas should extend buffer zones by at least 7.3 km.

J. Anim. Ecol. (2014)