Wednesday 21 February 2018

Badgers tracked by GPS dragged from setts for 'baiting'

A badger baiter photographed on a ‘stealth cam’ positioned on a tree next to a badger sett
A badger baiter photographed on a ‘stealth cam’ positioned on a tree next to a badger sett
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Scientists tracking badgers via GPS are deeply concerned about the animals being kidnapped for cruel blood sports, after noting how one travelled dozens of kilometres before being found dead.

Animal rights groups and the Department of Agriculture have become deeply concerned about the numbers being taken for the purpose of badger baiting.

The Department of Agriculture has been tracking a colony of Irish badgers via a high tech GPS in a bid to reduce the spread of bovine TB.

The badgers have been fitted with microchips, collars and tattoos to help track their movements and identify them but there has been one unexpected result of this monitoring.

But while studying the badgers, veterinarians and zoologists have found evidence that a number of these nocturnal animals have been taken by gangs who want to use them for badger baiting.

The baiters trap the animals by releasing dogs into the badgers' setts. Then, when the terrified creatures are cornered, they dig down and drag them out.

Superintending Veterinary Inspector Peter Maher from the Department of Agriculture has witnessed several instances of what is described as "badger-napping".

He said: "One badger was chipped in East Leinster but found dead in Myshall, in Co Carlow. A postmortem showed scars that suggested he had been used for baiting."

One of the first involved a female badger or sow named Yvonne. She went off the radar for several days - which alerted the attention of the department.

"We hadn't heard from Yvonne for a while. When we visited the sett, there were shovel marks. The baiter had dug down into the set," Maher said.

"But Yvonne was not killed on site. She was taken away and, I believe, used for baiting. We never saw her again."

The badgers are often transported to different localities to facilitate the blood sport.

Most of these badgers will end their lives in an enclosed ring being mauled by dogs.

The Department of Agriculture have photographic evidence of a badger baiter attempting to capture a badger during the day on the grounds of a private estate in Wexford.

Luckily, this baiter ran aware from the sett when he heard the owners of the estate approach.

Badger-bating has been illegal in Ireland for almost 200 years. But it has become more frequent in recent years.

Campaign director of Animal Rights Action Network John Carmody is now calling Minister Simon Coveney to address the "underground crime" of badger baiting.

Gillian Bird from the DSPCA agrees it is an issue that needs to be addressed. "It is a truly horrendous sport," she said.

Irish Independent

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