AN investigation has been launched after a badger was illegally shot and found outside its sett.

Badgers are a protected species under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and killing them is punishable by an unlimited fine.

However, Neil Yeo, of Colne Engaine, who has been a member of the North East Essex Badger Group for 20 years, received a phone call from a lady out walking who had discovered a dead badger.

Mr Yeo said: “I drove out there and found the badger carcass.

“I saw a little wound behind the shoulder and look- ing around I saw there was some blood on the grass around the area.

“I turned it over and there was an exit wound in its shoulder. It was quite clear the badger had been shot.”

Mr Yeo reported his findings to the Badger Hotline and hotline volunteer, Judy Massie, immediately called Essex Police to report the wildlife crime.

The badger carcass, which was found in Pebmarsh last Sunday, was retained for further examination.

“It is a shame as that set is lovely,” Mr Yeo, known locally as “the badger man”, said.

“Some of the holes are big enough for you to get down yourself. Badgers are part of our English heritage.

“Why someone would want to kill them I don’t know.”

Although protected, special licenses can be obtained to move a badger sett or cull badgers.

Many farmers and rural communities believe badgers should be culled as they are carriers of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) which can spread to cows and can infect humans.

Pasteurising the milk and humans being vaccinated against TB as part of the BCG vaccine mean that it is not a significant risk to human health.

However, some farmers believe that badgers should still be culled as cows that have bTB are slaughtered and the farmer paid compensation by the government.

In August 2015 it was announced culling would be rolled out in Dorset with a target of 615 to 835 badgers being culled there, while also being continued in Glouces- tershire and Somerset.

Targets were met in December of that year and there are currently no policies of badger culling.

If you spot a badger which has been killed or is in dis- tress, call 07751 572 175.

Essex Police rural and heritage crime officer Andy Long, who is investigating the case, was unavailable for comment.