RSPCA concern over Gloucestershire badger deaths

A badger
Image caption The RSPCA is concerned that the five badgers were killed illegally

The RSPCA is investigating the deaths of five badgers in Gloucestershire over concerns they were killed illegally.

A passer-by discovered the carcases in Elmstone Hardwicke, near Cheltenham. The cause of death is not known.

X-rays revealed the animals had not been shot, although the carcases were so badly decomposed the RSPCA said tests were inconclusive.

Steve Davies, an RSPCA animal welfare officer, said the discovery was of "real concern" to them.

"It is important to remind the general public that badgers are a protected species," he said.

"It would appear that the badgers were killed illegally and therefore I am urging anyone with information about this incident to please get in touch."

'Disease spread'

The bodies were of both adult and juvenile badgers.

RSPCA Senior Wildlife Scientist Colin Booty said: "The ongoing controversy regarding badgers and bovine TB and the government's proposed cull may perhaps have confused some people.

"However, the science is very clear that localised killing of badgers increases the risk of disease spread.

"So if, as seems likely, these badgers have been killed illegally it could add to the disease risk faced by farmers."

The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 states that it is an offence to kill, injure, cruelly ill-treat, dig for, damage or destroy a badger sett or cause a dog to enter a badger sett.

Anyone found guilty could face a prison sentence of up to six months or be fined up to £5,000.

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