Investigating the endangered badger Meles meles population in Belarus we aimed to find out in accordance with which model, i.e. bottom-up or top-down, it is structured and functions. Two important factors (low earthworm biomass and high predation risk) were considered with a view to explaining the specificity in badger spatial structure and diet. The study was conducted in a semi-natural terrain in north-eastern Belarus. We analysed 1188 scats, radiotracked seven badgers and assessed variations in earthworm biomass. In the conditions of low biomass and uneven distribution of earthworms badgers were found to act as generalist predators tending to specialize on the more readily available foods during short seasonal periods. The earthworm portion in the species diet was relatively low and correlated with earthworm biomass and we did not find any evidence of badger feeding selectivity. Data on badger distribution and activity suggest that avoidance of high predation risk forces badgers towards the security of utilising primarily straight-line routes between setts. Such tactics limit availability of earthworms and other food resources and so determine low density in badgers.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1