A BADGER protection group has reported an upturn in attacks on the animals and their setts.

Selby Badger Watch received reports of four serious attacks within 30 minutes last Thursday.

Ann Farrar-Coates said in one incident, two badgers were spotted at the side of the road between Garrowby Hill and Stamford Bridge.

Badger Watch said both animals had severe injuries and slashes which were not related to a road traffic accident.

At Cawood, near Selby, a badger sett had been dug out in woodlands on the outskirts of the town.

Another incident involved a badger being found between Pickering and Scarborough with similar slash injuries to the two at Garrowby Hill.

Ms Farrar-Coates said: “We are now at that time of year when sows will be having cubs.

“A sow will fight valiantly to protect her babies and sadly, it is this bravery which makes sows so highly sought- after by badger diggers who commit these barbaric and nauseating crimes.

“If a sow is taken now, not only will she suffer an unspeakably cruel death, her babies will too.”

Badger Watch is urging residents in rural areas to be vigilant and to report any sightings of men with dogs taking an interest in areas where badgers are known to live.

The group advised not confronting suspected offenders but to phone the police immediately with descriptions of those involved, types of dogs and any registration numbers.

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Police confirmed reports of a disturbance of badger setts in the Cawood area.

She said: “Crimes against wildlife are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated, we are grateful to members of the public who report any suspicious activity. Due to the remote nature of rural crime, the public can act as our eyes and ears and we encourage them to report any suspicious behaviour as soon as possible.”

The reports come as seven men from York were arrested earlier this week in connection with the shooting dead of a badger between Malton and York.

If you can help police, phone 0845 6060247 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.