Environmental Influence on the Structure of the European Badgers (Meles Meles) (Mustelidae, Mammalia) Family Group on the Oka-Don Plain Territory


The European badger (Meles meles L.) has various variants of its social organization in the populations in different parts of its habitat. The paper provides information on the impact of the environmant on the structure of the family group of the European badger. The material was based on the data of our own observations conducted at ten model sites in 2011 - 2018. Model badger settlements on the territory of the Oka-Don Plain within the administrative borders of the Saratov region were studied. Based on the results of route surveys, photo-trap surveys and correlation dependence assessment, a di-rect and high relationship was found between such factors as the area of the family group, the size of its feeding territory, with the number of individuals in the group (r = 0.875 and r = 0.715, respectively); family groups of four types (group, polyginic, monogamous and incomplete families) were revealed. The group type of family is formed in the territorial conditions most suitable for the badger with a sufficient amount of feed. Large family groups live on such sites, forming a complex system of holes used by many gen-erations of badgers. Polygynal families occupy territories similar to the first type, but with a small area of feeding areas. Due to the limiting factor of feed resource, such social relations do not develop up to large family groups and constitute a polygynical family of an alpha male and several females with their offspring. For the third-type social groups, a small area of family territories but a large feeding area are characteristic. Since small territorial resources are also a limiting factor, it does not allow animals to create large social groups more than a monogamous family. In the fourth type of family groups, which is characterized as an incomplete family, there are not enough suitable territories in combination with a small feeding area. Quantitatively, such a settlement consists of single individuals, and less often - a pair of animals. These types are not permanent structures, but replace each other under the influence of environmental factors. The development of a family group is limited by the total size of the area suitable for life activity, as well as the amount of available feed resources, which is a solution to the problem of resource allocation among animals of the given species.


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