A joint police and RSPCA swoop has captured five people on suspicion of digging into a badger sett at Stroud. Wildlife lovers have been urged to be vigilant to prevent attacks on the protected animals after the detention of the two adults and three youths at Dudbridge.

Gloucestershire Badger Group also took part in the operation that led to the arrests near the old railway line on Wednesday morning.

Gloucestershire Constabulary spokesman Matt Ford said the 19-year-old, an 18-year-old, two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old were all from Mountain Ash in South Wales.

Police acted after a call from a concerned member of the public at around 9.30am, he said.

“They were detained on suspicion of digging into a badger sett. Officers also seized an air rifle at the scene,” said Mr Ford.

The arrests were under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which carries maximum penalties of six months in jail and/or a £5,000 fine.

The five were released on bail until January 30 pending further inquiries.

Tony Dean, from Gloucestershire Badger Group, urged people who live near badger setts to keep watch for any unusual activity.

“We had a similar incident at Puckrup, north of Tewkesbury, over the Christmas period where evidence of digging was discovered,” he said.

Mr Dean said the Dudbridge sett was “quite active” although the number of its badgers was unknown.

Traditionally offenders dig for badgers which they then set to fight against dogs in illegal badger baiting.

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