Building the Yew View Artificial Badger Sett

For several years now, I have been keen to expand my camera knowledge gained in my patch, by taking on a bigger camera project. Working at Yew View has given me wonderful opportunities to experiment with all sorts of camera and wildlife projects, but this latest project is the most exciting yet! My garden is not big enough to create a large den camera system, but there is plenty of scope at Yew View.  As you may know, we already have an artificial badger sett there, that was installed some 7 years ago when the owners first bought the property. There are no internal cameras, but we have had cams on the outside of the two sett entrances and gained some great footage of the sett being regularly used. Over the last few months, we have been discussing the possibility of creating another sett, near to the existing one, using the same kind of piping. This one, however, would have a big improvement to the existing sett; it would have internal HD cameras.

I started to research how we might do this and approached some contacts who I thought may be able to help me. Jason Fathers, from Wildlife Windows had already built some artificial setts and these had been used successfully. Check out his website to find out more about some of the projects he and his team have been involved in. Jason agreed to help me to build the sett and I was delighted to have his expertise and knowledge on board. When creating a project like this, it is essential to pull on knowledge gained through experience…. and Jason has lots of experience!

A couple of weeks ago, whilst there was a digger on site, the area for the new badger sett was cleared and levelled. It is on the badgers’ route to the feeding station from their existing artificial sett, so they will be passing this site every night. The area I chose is on a bank, but was covered in brambles. With help from Tom and Pete, who work in the garden and Ed in his digger, the sea was soon cleared and levelled, ready for the sett to be built. Halted by the small issue of a drainage pipe running through the centre of the proposed site, we moved forward a little and the pipe was repaired and left in situ.

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Jason and I had had many conversations about how we were going to build the sett and the materials to build it from. Having built a number of successful setts already, I was  keen to utilise as much of Jason’s knowledge as possible, yet create something that was perfect for the Yew View site and mimicked the existing Sett as much as possible to maximise the chances that our badgers would take to it. For this reason, we chose to use the same piping that they are used to using. This is 225mm drainage pipe, with the chambers being made out of recycled sleepers.

We started by laying out a series of slabs to deter the badgers from digging out and creating their own chambers, away from our cameras! The sleepers were cut to length and then laid out on the slabs.

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The drainage pipe was brought onto site and sawn down to create the entrances. We wanted to create two entrances / exits, with access to both the chambers. The front, lower sleeper was cut to accommodate the pipe. We had to ensure that rain water should not run down into the chambers and the pipes, so a very slight gradient away from the sett chamber ensured this was the case….

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Cutting the pipes at angles enabled joints to be made that would enable the badgers to move between the chambers….

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The pipes were staked and cable-tied into position to prevent them from moving around. The joints were then covered with rubble bags to prevent soil dropping down into the junctions and some soil was piled on top to hold it all in place.

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The bases of the chambers were then lined with soil, which was rammed down to cover the slabs so they would not appear in the camera view…

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With the chambers and tubing almost compete, we began on the structures that would allow us to get an HD camera into this sett and also some sensors and possibly some additional IR, if it was needed. I wanted to create something that was future proof and allowed me to get the exact image I have in my head…. now was the time to put all of this into place as it would be impossible to do if the badgers moved in and I wanted to do it at a later date. I will be writing about the camera systems in a later blog post. After much research and conversations, help and advice from the guys at icatcher,  I chose an Axis exterior camera that would be able to cope with the damp and possible humidity in the chamber and be able to zoom in and focus on the occupants, giving excellent images.

These cameras would need to be removable in case of damage or breakdown. Obviously, this would need to be done with no disturbance to any badgers that may have taken up residence.  For this reason, some pipes would be put into place and the camera would be lowered down into place. It would be possible to raise the camera back out of the tube if needed, when the badgers were not in residence. These pipes were screwed and bolted into place….

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Jason needed to test it for size….. he is slightly larger than a badger!…

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Now that almost everything was in place, the roof sections of sleepers were put on, leaving me a gap to place hay inside….. surely no badger would be able to resist this!

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Of course, I needed to test it out… I wanted to picture what it wold feel like to be in this chamber, when I was watching the badgers snooze in here….if I was a badger, I would definitely choose this as my resting place…

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It was time to get the lids on and to waterproof the top with rubble bags again. The sides will be left to allow the chamber to breathe naturally, like an underground earth chamber would. If badgers do take up residence, it can get quite humid in there…. you do  not want the chamber to be sealed.

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We were so pleased with what we had created we, of course, needed the selfie to prove it!

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With the pipes sealed over temporarily with bags, I will continue the project next week, when I lower the cameras in for the first time…. I can’t wait!!

A massive thank you to Jason and also to Tom and Pete, who helped us create this sett. Watch this space for more updates in the coming weeks!