SEVEN men from York have been arrested after a badger was shot in North Yorkshire.

Police said they also seized 13 dogs, one of which had suffered facial injuries, during the swoop on Sunday near the village of Howsham between York and Malton.

They acted after a tip-off by a member of the public at about 1.10pm, who reported a group of men acting suspiciously while carrying guns and accompanied by dogs.

It is understood the badger was shot dead by one of the arrested men during the incident. Killing badgers or disturbing a badger’s sett is against the law.

Sergeant Paul Stephenson, of Ryedale Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “Thanks to the vigilance and assistance of the man who reported the incident to us, we were able to make a swift arrest. “Rural crime is a priority for North Yorkshire Police and assistance such as this from members of the public greatly enhances our ability to tackle it head-on. The public act as the eyes and ears of the police and this is a great example.”

The seven men from York were aged from 16 to 33, and were stopped by police while travelling in two Land Rovers. An eighth man, aged 33, from West Yorkshire, was also arrested.

All have been released on police bail and have had their dogs returned to them while the inquiry continues. Jean Thorpe, who runs Ryedale Badger Group, said persecution of badgers was not uncommon and said people acting suspiciously in the countryside should be reported to police straight away.

She said: “People are still using dogs and often the dogs can be injured too because a badger can weigh about nine kilos.

“If you see a lot of people in the countryside with a lot of working dogs, and who may be prowling around looking at places where badgers are known to be, then please call the police.

“If something makes you feel anxious about somebody then don’t sit on it for days. If they are doing something perfectly legal then they won’t mind being asked about it by the police.”