A series of wildlife crimes carried out in the Dromore countryside have been strongly condemned by the Northern Ireland Badger Group.
At the beginning of February a member of the group reported three badger setts which had been dug out. Two of them are now lifeless.
Describing the illegal bloodsport where a badger is torn apart by hunting dogs, a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Badger Group has warned that vulnerable setts in the area are being monitored.
He is also urging local people to help combat badger baiting by reporting any suspicious activity to the PSNI.
“This is the worst kind of cruelty I’ve ever witnessed,” said the spokesperson.
“The badger may live for up to an hour suffering, and may even kill the dogs in the process of the fight for its life.
“The men responsible stand round and watch this and laugh. They sometimes even film it on their phones.
“At this time of year badgers are especially vulnerable. The females have given birth and the baiters will target the mother. We have a number of vulnerable setts around the area under surveillance.
“Sometimes the setts are blocked up or at other times holes are dug to pull the badger out and then the dogs are set on it. They even sometimes disable the badger to give the dogs an advantage.
“They then cover up the evidence by burying it at the sett or dump it at the side of the road so it looks like it has been hit by a car.”
Alarmed that badger baiting may be on the increase around the Dromore area, the spokesperson continued: “I have found three dug out setts and whoever is doing this has got good local knowledge. It’s happening in the countryside over a wide area of Dromore and into Banbridge.”
Advising people on what to look out for, the spokesperson said: “Watch out for men with shovels and surrounded by dogs such as terriers and lurchers. Also watch out for suspicious vehicles close to where badger setts would be.
“One of the times to be on the look out are Sunday mornings. There tends to be less people about then and they take advantage of that.
“Badgers and their setts are both protected - you are legally not allowed to interfere with them in any way, so if you find any evidence contact police on 101 or ring crimestoppers, but if you actually see a crime taking place ring 999.
“The police are very proactive on this and take wildlife crime and animal cruelty very seriously. The courts have also started giving custodial sentences for animal cruelty. These baiters have committed a crime and there needs to be robust measures in place to make them stop.”