A badger was trapped in a snare for up to 24 hours at a narrow strip of woods in a Weardale forest.
The snare was anchored to a loose branch at woodland near Intake Lane, Frosterley, and the animal was found entangled in undergrowth with its stomach and hind legs caught.
It was found by anti-snare campaigner John Gill, from Castleside, Consett, on Easter Friday evening and freed with the help of the RSPCA.
Mr Gill was looking for snares when he came across the animal, after finding several others in Frosterley and the surrounding areas recently.
He said the badger may have struggled for as long as a day before it was found and was fortunate not to have been killed as it struggled to get free.
Mr Gill said: “I was looking for them, but the snare was somewhere you would not expect one to be. It was just tied to a branch at the top of a fallen tree, so the slightest contact would have set it off.
“I stayed with the badger for about two-and-a-half hours while the RSPCA came and it was freed. I didn’t want to leave it. I felt very protective and I was hoping it wouldn’t come to any harm.
“I estimate it had been there since Thursday evening. There is a legal requirement to check snares every 24 hours and I think it had been there for a full day.”
Fellow campaigners renewed calls for the devices – usually employed to catch foxes – to be banned in the wake of the badger’s ordeal.
Simon Wild, of the National Anti-Snaring Campaign, who have long lobbied for a ban on all snares, said that the North-East was the worst area in the country for snares. He said: “It’s so indiscriminate. The badger won’t know that it’s not for them.”
Meanwhile, Graham Temby of Durham County Badger Group, fears the animal’s life may still be in danger.
He said: “My biggest concern is that it got away, so we don’t know how badly hurt it is. Depending on how long it was there for, it could have septicaemia from its injuries and could die a nasty death.
“Or it may have been a lactating female and somewhere there could be a set of cubs going hungry.
“Setting these snares is one thing, but all of these snares catch animals they are not meant for.”