A savage and illegal snare claimed the life of a badger which was almost cut in half by the wire as it struggled to free itself.

Animal samaritan Simon Cowell from Wildlife Aid was called out to the badger last Thursday and immediately put the animal to sleep.

He said: “It was the most horrendous thing I have seen in 20 years. It was incredibly vile.

“As soon as I saw the injuries the badger had sustained I had to put it to sleep. The fact that it was still alive was just unbelievable. It must have been in the kind of agony that I can’t even begin to imagine,” he added.

He called for tighter laws to restrict the sale of snares and swingeing penalties for people who fail to comply with the law or set snares in unsuitable places.

“This snare was just despicable. I have never seen such horrific damage to an animal in my life and I have seen some foul things but this was absolutely unspeakable. My language was blue for about a day.”

The snare was set in the Ashtead area and the injured badger was seen by a pedestrian as it lay in a ditch.

“We were called because the pedestrian thought the badger was the victim of a road accident but as soon as we saw it we saw the snare.

“If a young child had seen the animal and had gone up to stroke it, it could have bitten it very severely and a domestic dog or cat could have been caught in the snare.”

Snares are legal but their use should be restricted – they should only be set by experts and well away from areas used by members of the public and there should be far greater penalties for people who set snares in the wrong places, said Mr Cowell.

Wildlife Aid, which is based in Randalls Road, Leatherhead, is in a state of permanent financial crisis as the cost of dealing with 12,000 animals and birds each year grows.

Its immediate need is for a second- hand dishwasher and fridge to clean feeding bowls and keep animal food fresh.

It has also launched a £70,000 buy a brick campaign to build a second intensive care unit. But ultimately it needs to find £1 million to buy more land and set up a larger animal hospital to cope with the growing demands for its services.

Anyone who can help in any way should call 01372 377332.

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