Shocking video has emerged showing wild animals being trapped and shot in the Peak District National Park.
The footage was captured by the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) on the Moscar Escate, as the team acted on reports of illegal badger persecution in the Peak District National Park.
The HIT conducted covert surveillance throughout spring 2017, monitoring the estate's snare and trap sites located throughout the National Park, and they said this revealed a systematic programme of wildlife persecution, which intentionally targeted iconic species on popular open access moorland and in the vicinity of celebrated nature reserves. The whole regime is conducted to ensure artificially high numbers of grouse are available to be shot for “sport” during the autumn months, they added.
An estimated 400 wire snares are set across the estate, in addition to a variety of traps to catch mammals and birds, the team said. These were found close to Stanage and Bamford Edges, Ladybower and Redmires Reservoirs and on the boundaries of Wyming Brook SSSI and Fox Hagg Nature Reserve.
According to the HIT, masked gunmen - the estate's gamekeepers – were filmed patrolling the sites daily, eliminating wildlife. The area is active badger and mountain hare territory and is also immensely popular with visitors: most are unaware of the devastation. Numerous unregulated bird and mammal traps are placed on the immediate boundaries of nature reserves: calculated to attract the many species concentrated in these supposedly protected areas.
One snare site - directly below Bamford Edge - was monitored closely over a four week period. This was just one of the many snare sites, on one of the many grouse moors, within the National Park. During the four weeks, two badgers, one mountain hare, one fox and three lambs were found caught. Wildlife endured terrible physical and mental suffering in snares. Fortunately, HIT investigators were able to release the lambs unharmed.
The HIT said: "One badger was shot and hastily dragged off to be buried in a nearby wood.
"A second badger was caught overnight and endured a prolonged capture and botched release, which resulted in being snared a second time and finally escaping wounded and with snares apparently still around her neck.
"Her injuries and stress mean that she most likely died afterwards.
"A female mountain hare was found prone, wailing and dying in a snare. A veterinary post mortem found that she died from internal bleeding and stress. A fox struggled frantically to free itself before being shot three times upon the gamekeeper's eventual arrival. If these animals had dependent young, they will probably have died of starvation."
Carcasses were thrown into "stink pits" at other snare sites, to draw in other wildlife to suffer the same fate. The gunmen continue to set snares on areas with a high rate of badger capture. There is evidence of five badger captures on the Bamford site.
Tanya Hall of the Hunt Investigation Team said: “The cruel decimation of wildlife is perpetrated daily in one of the most popular tourist areas of the UK. The immense suffering of badgers, foxes and hares that our investigators found is inflicted simply so that the Duke of Rutland’s Estate has plenty of grouse available to shoot. We must end this cycle of violence and cruelty and we encourage the public to add their support to our campaign."
Derbyshire Police are now investigating.