A CRIMINAL gang were stopped in the act of digging badgers from their sett in mid Tyrone, it has emerged.
Three men armed with spades and four dogs were spotted in a rural location, by a local woman at the end February.
On closer inspection she found that they had begun digging into the underground burrows and believes that they were about to subject the wildlife to a barbaric confrontation with their dogs – in the outlawed practice known as badger baiting.
The woman who wants to be known only as Rhona, said the attack happened in broad daylight.
Rhona contacted the Tyrone Herald in an effort to raise awareness and prevent further attacks on the protected animals.
“A few weeks back I witnessed three individuals who had travelled to my community to inflict horrendous cruelty to badgers,” she said.
“The police and relevant agencies were informed and an investigation is underway. These men -although I’m reluctant to use that word for them as violence inflicted on nocturnal animals during the day is more cowardly than manly – are already criminals; they are on local people’s land committing obscene acts of cruelty on extremely social, passive animals.”
She also revealed that when she confronted the men, they made no attempt to deny that they were badger baiting. The attack happened at 1pm on a Sunday.
“They seemed to have no fear about walking on to people’s land in broad daylight, with spades and dogs,” she added.
“The reason I am speaking out is that I want people who see anything suspicious to contact the police and stop this from happening to badgers.”
The Northern Ireland Badger Group who were made aware of the attack, said the badgers are “especially vulnerable at this time of the year as many setts will contain defenceless cubs”.
The group also claimed that the ongoing TB debate – in which badgers are blamed for spreading the disease top cattle – “encourages illegal interference with the animals and their setts” .
A spokesperson for the group added, “The general public are the eyes and ears of the countryside. We are asking people to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity near setts.”
The PSNI confirmed they were investigating the attack on February 25 stressing that they “take wildlife crime very seriously”.
“Police are appealing to anyone with information about the incident to contact officers in Omagh on 101 quoting reference 713 26/02/18. Alternatively, information can also be provided to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111,” said a police spokesperson.