Variations in badger (meles meles) sett microclimate: Differential cub survival between main and subsidiary setts, with implications for artificial sett construction
Kaneko Y., Newman C., Buesching CD., MacDonald DW.
Maintaining homeothermy is essential for mammals, but has considerable energetic costs. In this study, we monitored the internal conditions of setts within five European badger (Meles meles) social groups during the cub-rearing season, that is, February to July, in 2004. Sett temperature showed substantial and significant variation over this period, while relative humidity remained stable throughout. Microclimate was least stable during the period for which cubs remain entirely below ground between February and April; however here the instrumented main sett demonstrated a much warmer and more stable temperature regime than did nearby subsidiary outliers. We thus postulate that the energy budget of reproducing females could be affected by even small temperature fluctuations, militating for optimal sett choice. For comparison we also report microclimatic data from two artificial setts and found them to be markedly inferior in terms of thermal insulative properties, suggesting that man-made setts may need more careful consideration in both thermal and spatial setts network in each territory to adequately compensate the loss (e.g., destruction due to development) of a natural sett, especially as a breeding den. © 2010 Yayoi Kaneko et al.