POLICE have launched an investigation after badgers were shot dead in west Dorset and disguised as roadkill.

Officers are appealing for information after incidents in the Bradpole and Melplash area, where badgers were shot dead and left at the side of the road – giving the impression they had been hit by a vehicle.

Inspector Mike Darby, wildlife crime lead for Dorset Police, said: “We know of two that were killed and were found in the Bradpole area.

“They were found dead by the side of the road by a member of the public. However, they clearly had gunshot wounds and had clearly been dumped there to make it look like roadkill.

“Clearly shooting and killing badgers and interfering with badger setts is a criminal offence and we are investigating the circumstances of these animals being found there.”

He added: “Whilst I have no doubt this happens quite a lot, this is the first time we have had a number reported in one incident.

“We have had sporadic reports of this happening in the past but this is the first time a number of carcases have been discovered at about the same time.”

The shootings have been condemned by Dorset Wildlife Trust which has campaigned against culling badgers.

Dr Simon Cripps, chief executive, said: “It would be a great shame if people were starting to take the law into their own hands and would set a dangerous and potentially inflammatory precedent if this turned out to be the case.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News:

Dr Simon Cripps

“The law is very clear that badgers are a protected species and we would expect the police to treat these incidents seriously.”

The RSPCA is reminding people they could be jailed if they illegally shoot badgers. The charity is urging anyone who suspects acts of cruelty taking place to come forward with information.

Laura Quinn, RSPCA spokeswoman for Dorset, said: “We are sad to hear reports that badgers have allegedly been shot dead in the Bridport area.

“This is a criminal offence that both the police and the RSPCA take very seriously and should you be caught and found guilty of committing a crime such as this, you can face a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months in prison.

“We would urge anyone who has any information about what may have happened to these badgers or who suspects that an act of cruelty is taking place towards badgers or any other animal in the area to contact either the police or the RSPCA cruelty line immediately in complete confidence on 0300 1234 999.”

Witnesses and anyone with information should contact PC James Mullin on 101, quoting occurrence number 55160078084.