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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2010, Article ID 859586, 10 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/859586
Research Article

Variations in Badger (Meles meles) Sett Microclimate: Differential Cub Survival between Main and Subsidiary Setts, with Implications for Artificial Sett Construction

1Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney, Oxon OX13 5QL, UK
2Wildlife Conservation Laboratory, Division of Ecosciences, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Saiwaicho 3-5-8, Fuchu, Tokyo 183-8509, Japan

Received 10 March 2010; Revised 29 June 2010; Accepted 5 August 2010

Academic Editor: Cajo J. F. ter Braak

Copyright © 2010 Yayoi Kaneko et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

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.