A RYEDALE farmer has been fined £500 after he was found guilty of recklessly damaging an active badger sett.

Malcolm Brian Foster of Grange Farm, Bulmer, a tenant cattle farmer on part of the Castle Howard Estate, was also ordered to pay £15 victim surcharge and £700 costs.

Scarborough Magistrates Court heard that Foster had pumped 5,000 gallons of liquid cattle slurry into an active badger sett on his land at Northfield Farm, Bulmer, on days previous to March 3, of this year.

PC Jez Walmsley, wildlife crime officer, based at Malton visited the farm with local badger expert Jean Thorpe, after information was received by police.

The badger sett, previously known to Mrs Thorpe, was completely filled with cattle slurry and the extensive active hedgerow sett was overflowing with liquid manure which had spilled out into the adjacent agricultural fields.

Magistrates were told that badgers give birth in February and in March this large badger sett would have held badger cubs below ground. Badgers in this sett would have died from drowning or suffocation as the slurry was pumped under pressure into this obviously-active sett.

PC Walmsley said: “This was a very callous and heartless act of cruelty to these protected animals who will have died a horrible death. The court’s punishment reflects the seriousness of this distressing act. Those who persecute badgers should remember that it remains illegal to kill badgers in North Yorkshire.”

He referred to the fact that a licence has been granted for the cull of badgers in an area of West Gloucestershire to control bovine TB and stressed that this is a strictly-controlled cull carried out by licensed marksmen and is being monitored by both Defra and Gloucestershire police.

He stressed that badgers in the rest of the UK remain protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

“The cull does not allow anyone, unless licensed, to kill badgers and any offences will be dealt with by the wildlife unit of North Yorkshire Police,” PC Walmsley said.