Diet of the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) in the Western Carpathians and its implications for species conservation in Poland

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  • 1 Association for Nature “Wolf”, Twardorzeczka 229, 34-324 Lipowa, Poland
  • | 2 Institute of Environmental Sciences, Jagiellonian University, ul. Gronostajowa 7, 30-387 Kraków, Poland
  • | 3 Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, ul. Waszkiewicza 1c, 17-230 Białowieża, Poland

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Food composition of the Eurasian badger Meles meles was studied in the mountain zone and foothills of the Western Carpathians (Southern Poland). The diet, obtained by scat analysis, was compared with availability of earthworms, fruits, amphibians, rodents and ground nesting birds (capercaillie Tetrao urogallus and hazel grouse Bonasa bonasia) within both altitudinal zones. Earthworms and fruits were the most abundant food source in the foothills, while amphibians were scarce and rodents were equally available in both altitudinal zones. Capercaillie and hazel grouse occurred in the forests above 560 m a.s.l. In the foothills, vegetable matter (mainly fruits), constituted 56.3%, and earthworms 39.6%, of the biomass consumed, while mammals were supplementary resources (2.9%). In the mountains, the importance of vegetable matter was smaller (47.9%). Earthworms and insects had a similar share (37.8% and 1.8%, respectively), but mammals were eaten much more intensively (13.9%). Birds (exclusively domestic hen) were taken by badgers only in the foothills (0.6%). There was a seasonal variation in badger diet composition in both altitudinal zones, as earthworms dominated in spring, while fruits were eaten mainly in summer and autumn. The composition of the badgers’ diet only slightly differed between foothills and mountains. This was probably caused by regular movement of badgers between elevational zones during foraging. We conclude that the present hunting regulation, which allows year-round hunting on badgers in areas inhabited by capercaillie, is not justified.

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