BUCKETS of poison were poured into Isle of Wight badger setts in what the RSPCA has condemned as "a deliberate act of cruelty."
Police are appealing for information after around 20 badger setts were disturbed on land behind Boxers Lane, Niton.
Officers were contacted by a local badger action group yesterday (Thursday) morning and are now working with them and the RSPCA to investigate the report.
RSPCA inspector Mark Buggie said: "There’s no doubt in my mind this was a deliberate act of cruelty.
"It was the largest amount of poison I have ever seen — there was buckets of the stuff dumped at the entrance of these setts.
"We have spent most of the afternoon digging this poison away to make sure the area is not only safe for the badgers in the area, but also the people, dogs and children who frequent the footpath.
"The poison could have caused a horrible and incredibly painful death, involving a lot of internal bleeding and pain."
Wildlife crime officer, PC Nick Massey, said badgers were a protected species and it was an offence to kill them or interfere with badger setts.
"He said: "It is also an offence to lay any poison on any land.
"We want to hear from anyone who might have seen any suspicious activity in this area or near to any badger sett."
Anyone with information should contact PC Massey at Shanklin police station on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.