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Earthstopping and the emergence of badgers



Biological Conservation - Volume 34, Issue 4 , 1985, Pages 289-306


I. M. Lindsay and D. W. Macdonald from the WildCRU at Oxford University


Eurasian badgers are widespread on English farmland where they may be affected by various human activities, amongst which is the practice of ‘earthstopping’ by foxhunts. This practice is described in detail, and involves blocking the entrances to badger setts in order to prevent the escape therein of hunted foxes. A questionnaire survey indicates that earthstopping is practised on 30·8% of English farms and that in some areas most badger setts are routinely stopped 4–5 times during the winter foxhunting season. Setts were monitored and badgers radio-tracked in an investigation of the consequences of stopping for their behaviour. The time of nightly emergence from the sett was found to be negatively correlated with minimum nightly temperature, and badgers rarely emerged at all on nights when the temperature fell to − 1°C or below. When subjected to stopping the badgers postponed their emergence times and did not emerge at all on some nights when, on the basis of the temperature, they would otherwise have been expected to do so. However, we could detect no damaging effect upon the badgers due to these delays or otherwise due to stopping when it was practised responsibly. In contrast, irresponsible stopping with rubble rather than loose soil is pointless, damaging to the landscape and probably also to the badgers. We conclude that where stopping is deemed necessary it should only be done either with loose soil, which the badgers can readily dislodge, or with bungs such as soil-filled sacks, which the huntsmen should remove at the end of the day's hunting.

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