WILDLIFE campaigners have hit out at the ‘inherently cruel’ killing of a fox found dead on a beach. The animal was missing a leg, leading to suspicions it was killed by an illegal snare.

It had been seen the previous day walking around Kimmeridge ‘in agony’ and the RSPCA was called to find it.

But when officers got to the scene, they found the animal had died from its injury. Steve Trewhella, a Dorset-based wildlife photographer, joined the search for the animal.

He said: “Its front leg had been completely severed. There’s only one thing that can take a leg off like that – a wire snare.

“Not only is it extremely cruel, it is also illegal.

“The fox would have become caught and the struggle would have severed its leg, leaving the animal to die in agony either from blood loss or infection.

“This poor thing had lost its limb and had been walking round in agony before it finally died.

“The use of snares is completely abhorrent.

“I would hope the authorities will investigate thoroughly and find the person who did this.

“I am sure there are probably other animals being killed in the same way.”

Some types of snares are legal, but ones that kill are not.

Mr Trewhella said snares are sometimes used on land where game is bred for shooting and are used to protect the birds from foxes and other wild animals.

He added: “I am alarmed but not surprised at finding a snared animal, but would like to see the issues highlighted.

“This sort of barbaric practice does not belong in modern Britain and while I reluctantly accept that some feel the need to kill wild animals either as sport or to protect their financial interests, this is not the way ahead.”

An RSPCA spokesman said: “One of the fox’s legs appeared to have been sheared off, most likely by a snare.

“Using a self-locking snare, failing to inspect one or setting it purposefully to cause injury to an animal is a criminal offence and carries a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine or six months’ imprisonment.

“It is also an offence to cause an animal unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which carries a maximum sentence of £20,000 and or a jail sentence. Snares can cause a huge amount of pain and distress and can be fatal.

“People need to be aware that they leave themselves open to prosecution if they are using illegal traps or not setting them correctly.”

Anyone with information should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.