Badger culling in Dorset has started for this summer.

From June 1 Supplementary Licences issued by Natural England will allow for shooting of badgers across UK, including in Dorset, as part of the governments efforts to control the spread of Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB).

This year there is a maximum of target of culling 4,125 badgers in Dorset, using methods such as shooting and trapping.

The cull's goal is to reduce the spread of bTB in cattle, as they can contract the disease from the wild animals.

The controversial badger cull was first introduced in 2013 and in 2014 the government announced plans to eliminate bTB by 2038.

Badger culling was extended to Dorset in 2015, and last year 27,581 cattle were slaughtered as a result of a bTB incident.

Last year the maximum target for badger control for Dorset was the same at 4,125, with a total of 1,258 badgers being culled in Dorset, of which 1,172 were shot and 86 trapped.

Other methods the government are using to control bTB include vaccinating badgers and trials to vaccinate cattle from the disease.

Zoe Egan, Badger Trust’s Groups Coordinator, said: “Dorset is once again alive to the sound of tourists.

"How many of them realise the hills are also alive with the sound of gunfire?

"Contractors with guns could now be active in unspecified countryside areas.

"In all cases badgers will be shot, the majority whilst free running, which can result in unrecorded hits condemning badgers and their cubs to a painful, lingering death.

"This is why we are urging members of the public in Dorset to report any injured badger they see, as they may be suffering from a bullet wound.”

Natural England have said that they aim to ensure that culling will 'not be detrimental to the survival of the badger population concerned' within Article 9 of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.

Biosecurity Minister Lord Benyon has said: "Bovine TB is one of the most difficult and intractable animal health challenges that the UK faces today, causing considerable trauma for farmers and costing taxpayers over £100 million every year.

"The widespread vaccination of badgers is a key cornerstone of our strategy to eradicate TB by 2038."