1. ITV Report

Baby badgers left to starve after their mother is shot

Warning: You may find this story and some of the pictures distressing

Staff at Secret World in Somerset have had to deal with one of their saddest arrivals - the body of a female badger who had been shot dead.

What's worse, according to the centre, is that she'd recently given birth - meaning her cubs were left helpless in the wild and starving to death.

Badger cubs as tiny as this youngster were left to fend for themselves after their mother was shot Credit: Secret World

The female badger was found dead at Edington near Bridgwater by a well-wisher who had heard shooting and gone to investigate. The animal had been killed when she was probably on the way back to her sett and her young.

Her body was taken to Secret World and experts there discovered that she had been shot in her stomach. They also confirmed that she was a mother.

The body of the female badger was found at Edington in Somerset Credit: Secret World

Secret World has issued a photo of the dead badger close-up but it is too upsetting to publish here. The charity has reported the killing as a wildlife crime and says these are becoming all too common.

We are seeing an increase in persecution of badgers. This is not the time of year that a licence for culling would be in place, nor was it in a cull area...

Sadly, misinformation regarding the infection of badgers with bovine TB has meant that these animals are much maligned.

– Pauline Kidner, Secret World

"It would have taken those cubs a week to die"

Opal the orphaned badger cub Credit: Secret World

Secret World says the cubs would only be a week or two old - about the same size as little Opal who was brought into the centre in February.

She was one of the lucky ones - the first of the season's orphaned badger cubs. She needed round-the-clock care, which workers were able to provide.

Read: The story of Opal the orphaned badger cub

While these latest badger cubs cannot be saved, Secret World continues to work to rescue and help wildlife until it can hopefully be returned to the wild.

The charity is holding open days over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, starting today, Good Friday. It is a chance for visitors to can find out more about its work and meet some of its success stories.