Badger cull is leaving 'botched' kills by roadside, councillor claims
Fresh doubt has been cast on the humaneness of the pilot badger cull after a Somerset councillor claimed a “steady trickle of botched kills” has been found outside the zone.
Mike Rigby, an independent county councillor representing Bishops Lydeard on the edge of the cull area, fears injured badgers are not being killed instantly, as the Government claims, but are escaping and dying elsewhere.
Secret World Wildlife Rescue, at East Huntspill, said more badgers than usual had been brought in since the killing began, but only one so far which appears to have been shot.
Campaigners believe, however, that the surge in night-time activity around the shooting is affecting other wildlife by disturbing nocturnal hunting.
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They have also revealed an increase in reports of attacks on badgers, including shooting and gassing, claiming that legitimising night-time shooting in restricted zones has effectively declared “open season” on badgers across the county.
Mr Rigby has said the dead animals, which are protected by law outside the licensed cull zones, had been “found shot on roads and elsewhere, clearly not in approved kill areas”.
In his latest blog, he wrote: “This would suggest that either free-shooting is not proving to be a particularly humane method of culling, as badgers are running off to die, or that there is a sizeable illegal badger cull going on, perhaps using the official cull as cover.
“The former explanation would be a further nail in the cull’s coffin, the latter requires a police investigation.”
He also claimed that denials by DEFRA – the department overseeing the culls – that the deaths are unrelated are “far too knee-jerk to be credible”.
“Maybe the marksmen are telling DEFRA that every kill is clean, that each badger shot dies on the spot,” he added. “But to swallow such assurances is naive and gullible.”
“I will be enquiring of Avon and Somerset Police whether there are any active investigations into illegal badger shooting. If not, that would strongly suggest that these shot badgers are botched kills from the cull.”
DEFRA said there was "no evidence to support these claims".
A spokesman added: "If Mr Rigby has information about any illegal shooting or harming of badgers, he should report it to the police.”
The Somerset cull, one of two pilot schemes to test the effectiveness of culling as a means to halt the spread of bovine TB, began this summer.
Earlier this month, the first photographs emerged of what appears to be a badger killed in the controversial cull.
A single high velocity bullet was said to have killed the animal, dubbed Badger 102, passing right through it, a vet who examined the carcass concluded.
Secret World said it had been delivered to them by people on an overnight “badger patrol” who reported seeing marksmen searching for the badger's body.
Pauline Kidner, the founder of the charity, which released photographs of the badger with its stomach blown out, said the high number of dead badger sightings could be because so many people were in the area.
“We have lots of badgers brought into us thought to have been shot but on inspection they have looked like road traffic accidents,” she told the WMN.
“One looked to all intents and purposes like it had been shot in the head but when we wiped the blood away there was no entry or exit wound.”
“However we are seeing some unusual behaviour – a few tawny owls found dead on one night walk – so there are probably other sides to the cull we are not aware of.
“There is a huge amount of disturbance for creatures which hunt at night.”
Michelle Gunn, of Somerset Badger Patrol, said it was unusually rare to see a dead badger within the cull zone.
“You just don’t see any road kill inside the zone at all now,“ she added. “It used to be as you drove down to Devon you would see them everywhere.
“It could be that the cullers have picked them up – they could put them on the dead pile and claim the money.”
Adrian Coward, chairman of the Somerset Badger Group, said the road kills maybe badgers driven from kill areas by the shooting.
“We are getting more and more reports of people out shooting,” he added.
“Exmoor has always had people out lamping and shooting but there is a view that this is more prevalent than before - the Government has made it open season.”
Avon and Somerset police said no-one was available to comment on whether any live investigations into illegal killing of badgers were under way.