Badgers prefer cattle pasture but avoid cattle: implications for bovine tuberculosis control.
Woodroffe R., Donnelly CA., Ham C., Jackson SYB., Moyes K., Chapman K., Stratton NG., Cartwright SJ.
Effective management of infectious disease relies upon understanding mechanisms of pathogen transmission. In particular, while models of disease dynamics usually assume transmission through direct contact, transmission through environmental contamination can cause different dynamics. We used Global Positioning System (GPS) collars and proximity-sensing contact-collars to explore opportunities for transmission of Mycobacterium bovis [causal agent of bovine tuberculosis] between cattle and badgers (Meles meles). Cattle pasture was badgers' most preferred habitat. Nevertheless, although collared cattle spent 2914 collar-nights in the home ranges of contact-collared badgers, and 5380 collar-nights in the home ranges of GPS-collared badgers, we detected no direct contacts between the two species. Simultaneous GPS-tracking revealed that badgers preferred land > 50 m from cattle. Very infrequent direct contact indicates that badger-to-cattle and cattle-to-badger M. bovis transmission may typically occur through contamination of the two species' shared environment. This information should help to inform tuberculosis control by guiding both modelling and farm management.