POLICE are today hunting a cruel trapper who snared a badger and left it to die a long and painful death.

The find has raised fresh fears that badger baiters are operating in the Lothians. The animal was found dead in a snare left on a clear badger trail on the Whitehill Estate near Rosewell, Midlothian.

It is believed badger baiters from the north of England could be targeting eastern Scotland to get supplies for the sick sport. Starvation Baiters snare or dig badgers out of their underground homes, often dislocating their jaws before throwing them to packs of bloodthirsty dogs.

Today Sgt Brian Robertson, Lothian and Borders Police wildlife liaison officer, said the animals are also vulnerable to poachers hoping to snare roe deer or landowners who consider them pests.

He revealed the snared animal had died after being trapped for several days. It was the third incident in Midlothian and East Lothian in a month. “To set a snare and not check it on a daily basis is not only illegal but totally repugnant.

“It is liable to render the animal horrendous pain through starvation and further injuring itself trying to escape from the trap,” he said.

Killing or injuring badgers is outlawed under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and culprits can be jailed for six months and face fines of £5,000. Snaring pests such as foxes and rabbits is legal, as long as snares are checked daily and animals released or humanely put down.

The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the problem of snaring badgers was widespread in the Lothians, with the highest number in Edinburgh and West Lothian.

SSPCA chief inspector Michael Flynn said this was due to the higher badger population in these areas, where there were around 20 incidents of the animals injured in snares every year. He said: “The Society has always fought for a ban on all snares – it is a very lazy way to deal with pests.

“Something like a badger can practically cut itself in half trying to escape – I’ve seen animals disembowel themselves trying to get out of the trap. This badger must have been trapped for four or five days before it died a terrible death.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 01368- 862718.