Internal structure and contents of three badger (Meles meles) setts


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Three badger (Meles meles L.) setts in the south of England, which formed a single sett complex belonging to one social group of badgers, were excavated prior to being destroyed by construction of a new road. Setts 1 and 2, classified as annexes, were excavated completely; sett 3, classified as a main sett, was only excavated partially, but its total size was estimated from the excavated portion. The setts consisted of tunnels totalling 16 m, 140 m and 879 m, respectively; contained one, nine and 50 chambers; and had five, 42 and 178 entrances. The total volume of the three setts was about 45 m3, and their construction was estimated to have required the removal of about 70 tonnes of soil. In the two smaller setts tunnels ran on a single level with an average depth of 99 cm; in the larger sett they ran on two levels with modal depths of 50 cm and 110–120 cm, respectively. All three setts contained bedding material (dry grass and plastic bags) but only the main sett contained latrines. None of the setts contained badger bones and the interiors of all three setts were remarkably clean and orderly. We discuss hypotheses as to why badgers sometimes continue to extend even large well-established setts but conclude that the survival value of very large setts remains problematical.