Badger baiting: 'Hundreds' illegally killed every season
Hundreds of badgers are killed during badger baiting season each year with hundreds of people involved in the illegal activity, it has been claimed.
The USPCA and the NI Badger Group believe the practice is on the rise, in part, due to social media.
It is estimated that there are about 34,000 badgers in Northern Ireland.
It is illegal to kill, injure or take a badger, possess or control a live or dead badger, or damage, destroy or obstruct access to a sett.
Peter Clarke, from the Northern Ireland Badger Group, told BBC News NI that many are dying as a result of badger baiting.
"From October to the end of February criminals come out into the countryside to partake in this horrible activity," said Mr Clarke, who believes badger baiting is more common than many people believe.
"They will basically come to a sett and put dogs down it to corner the badger.
"They then dig down to it and let the dogs kill it which can take over an hour while they stand around watching. They often just bury the carcass in the sett as they wouldn't want to be caught with it."
Dogs are also often injured in the blood sport.
One of the USPCA's investigators, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the BBC: "The badger obviously is fighting for its life so will put up the perfect fight and the injuries the dogs sustain are horrendous.
"I've seen dogs with their bottom jaws removed and their lips completely stripped from their face."
The USPCA investigator believes there are "hundreds of people across the province involved in this activity", the majority being from "hardened criminal groups involved in different types of crime".
He added: "It's a thriving illegal country pursuit across the province and the whole of Ireland but there is a distinct lack of reporting of these illegal activity."
Police urged the public to report any possible offences.
"Whether these actions are intentional or reckless it remains an offence, and one which the PSNI will investigate and gather evidence with a view to prosecution," said the PSNI.
"Ignorance is no excuse. The dedicated PSNI's Wildlife Liaison Unit offers advice, support and guidance to officers investigating reports of wildlife crime.