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By Abraham Alonso
Young common badgers are part of the diet of bears, wolves, lynx or genets. However, a new study coordinated by experts from the Department of Biology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, has revealed that these and other small and medium-sized mammals fear humans more than their natural predators. To determine this, they conducted an experiment in the forests of Wytham, near Oxford, in the United Kingdom.
According to an article published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, the scientists placed several loudspeakers and hidden cameras in an area where badgers are commonly found. The devices were prepared to be activated in the presence of these animals, which came to the enclave to feed. In this way, when someone entered the area controlled by the cameras, the loudspeakers emitted the same sounds that a wolf, a bear, a dog or people would make talking or reading a book.
The idea was to see if the badgers had stopped fearing the presence of the large extinct carnivores in the region - the bear and the wolf - and if, on the contrary, that "fear" was now centered on humans. The biologists observed that the wolf's call had no effect on the behavior of the mustelids, and that the grunts of the bear and the barks of the dog hardly intimidated these animals, which in spite of this continued to roam the area normally. But the recordings of people had a very different effect. As soon as they heard them, most badgers even abandoned their food or spent much less time eating.
According to these scientists, our species kills small carnivores, such as badgers, at a much higher rate than large predators. Therefore, it cannot be said that we have replaced them, but, in reality, the former have learned to fear us much more than their traditional enemies. This is appreciated even among the animals most used to our presence, such as foxes and raccoons, for which we would be a type of super predator that should be avoided at all costs. For these researchers, it is important to assess these results due to the implications they have for future measures taken for the conservation of ecosystems and wildlife.