Police believe a badger found trapped in a snare in Bradford was caught for the illegal sport of baiting.
The young male badger suffered serious neck injuries after it became stuck in a cruel self-locking device in a remote wooded area of Clayton.
It was found suspended from a snare with its head barely touching the floor by 21-year-old Claire Hardaker, of Tyersal, who was out on the field with her horse Brandy.
“I spotted the badger on the other side of the valley. It was quite still but it started hissing at us. I felt horrified and angry and went for help.”
Stephen Henshall, who owns the land where it was found, called Bradford pest controller Peter Highsmith to help rescue the animal whose nearby sett had been dug up and almost destroyed.
Mr Hensall, a printer who works at Kingsley Cards in Skipton, said: “I was mortified, it is the first time in 48 years I have seen a live badger and it was only just alive.
“My wife Gill thought it was going to die. When we got it into the cage and took it back it ate three quarters of a tin of cat food and half a dozen eggs and drank lots of water.”
He added: “I think the people that did this want putting in a snare.”
Wildlife officer PC Phillip Sanderson said he believed the badger would have been used for the brutal and banned practice of baiting.
“It was caught for a specific purpose, I feel they wanted to catch it alive and use it for baiting which has been illegal since the mid 1800s.
“It had serious injuries to its neck and throat where the wire loop had got caught round its neck and got tighter.
“It had been in a total panic and had been jumping a few feet off the floor up at the fence trying to get free.”
The badger is still underweight but after two-weeks of treatment in a sanctuary in South Yorkshire it is hoped it can be released back into the wild to its family group.
PC Sanderson, who is based at Todmorden, said about 50 setts were attacked in West Yorkshire each year with between 300 and 400 badgers killed. Offenders who attack the protected species face a heavy fine or six months in prison.
He said: “West Yorkshire has a reputation as the cruelty capital of the country and here is another example of an animal being hurt – it defies explanation.”
Les Barnett, president of Bradford Urban Wildlife Group, said: “Badger baiting is a cruel sport which still goes on in secret. It is deplorable when we are supposed to live in a civilised society that people are still prepared to get fun out of torturing and taunting wild animals.
“It is not a regular thing reported to us in the Bradford district though we are aware of air gun shootings which is not organised in the same way but is also to be deplored.”
Anyone with information about this or similar incidents should contact PC Sanderson on (01706) 812104.