I’ve tried to make a point of watching one group of badgers rather than flitting around here, there and everywhere, the idea being that I should be able to learn more by getting to know one group very well.
OK. Today I changed my mind slightly, and decided to go and have a look at the neighbouring badger sett.
Regular readers may remember that I found this sett a little while ago (see Fieldnotes 7th September). I hadn’t forgetton it.
In fact, this sett has been central in my efforts to understand ‘my’ group of badgers. I was able to predict its position by mapping latrine sites, badger latrines being sited on the boundaries of their territories. When I followed the badger tracks in the snow in January I was able to see how badgers from both of these setts interacted on the boundary between them.
A great deal of badger behaviour is related to establishing and maintaining a territory, so understanding the relationship between neighboring clans is important. For instance, last year I wondered what happened to the ‘excess’ badgers at the sett, since as a group they seemed to reproducing faster than they were dying. After reading Hans Kruuk’s The Social Badger I now know that the non-dominant males leave and typically mate with females from another sett, but only ever with those from a neighbouring sett. They don’t seem to travel any further. The females almost always stay in their home territory.
(Interestingly, this happened to me too. I grew up in the north of England, but I left there and married my wife. My wife is from Bedfordshire, where we now live, so I migrated away from my clan whilst she stayed in her home territory. Perhaps the principle works for humans as well…)
Anyway, I digress. Today, I decided I fancied a bit of a change so I went to see the other sett. It needs a name to distinguish it from the main sett I watch, and since there are pine trees around the entrance let’s call it the Pine Tree sett.
The Pine Tree sett is not as big as the main one. Like the main sett it adjoins
the pasture field, so the badgers have access to the main food resources (hence the territorial boundary that divides the pasture field between them). There are three entrances spread out over a hundred yards or so, with a well-used path between them. The entrances are the classic sideways D shape, with large spoil heaps and used bedding outside. Nearby were fresh dung pits. In short, it was as badgery a place as you could ever wish for.
The only problem was that although I watched it for three hours, I didn’t see any badgers. Very frustrating.
The holes are quite far apart and not intervisible, so it is only possible to see one of them at a time. I chose to watch at the hole with the largest and freshest spoil heap, but perhaps the badgers were at another one.
It’s a mystery. It is obviously a badger sett, and obviously in use, so the badgers must be somewhere. I was at the sett from 6.30pm to 9.30pm, so I imagine the badgers would have come out during that time. In the other sett half a mile away they’re coming out consistently between 8.00pm and 8.30pm.
I think I need to put in a few more trips to this sett and try watching the other holes. Hopefully that will clear up the mystery.