The head gamekeeper of the Holker Hall estate, Cark-in-Cartmel, Cumbria, was today jailed for three months after being found guilty of using illegal snares to kill badgers.

John Drummond, 32, of Old Park Farmhouse, Grange-over-Sands, Kendall, Cumbria, had denied 60 charges of using the snares on Lord Cavendish’s 14,000 acre Holker Hall estate.

Stipendiary Magistrate Peter Ward said: “The defendant must have seen that this was cruel and the badgers must have suffered greatly.”

A covert operation was set up by the RSPB in response finding a cage trap. It ultimately led to the discovery of two dead badgers though fifteen were believed to have been killed in the preliminary investigation in 1998. One was found hanging over the edge of a limestone outcrop where it had asphyxiated after dragging a snare for 30 yards.

Guy James, prosecuting, said Drummond, who had worked on the estate for two years, had tampered with 20 snares to make them illegal self-locking snares which tighten around the animals’ necks until they die.

He added: “A search of one of the woods uncovered various other badgers, parts of badgers and badger skulls.”

When Drummond, who had worked as a gamekeeper for 16 years, gave evidence he said he had never seen an illegal snare before. He said he did not know what they looked like as he had previously worked on an estate in the Pennines where they were not used.

He was convicted on 46 charges charges under the Protection of Badgers Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Acts, included killing two badgers and mistreating another.