POLICE and the RSPCA are investigating two attacks on badger setts in County Durham.

The attempts to dig out the animals occurred in villages near Bishop Auckland.

Gangs of men were spotted trying to dig out badgers from a sett near a railway line and another on the edge of a field.

Local people rang Durham Wildlife Trust, which alerted wildlife groups and police.

A spokesman for Durham Badger Group said: "We are delighted that the public are passing on this information. If we can all work together, it is only a matter of time until these people are caught."

Ten days ago, The Northern Echo revealed police were investigating an attack on a sett by suspected badger baiters.

Two dead badgers were found in woodland close to a sett which had been dug out, also near Bishop Auckland.

And earlier this week we revealed how violent criminals are turning to wildlife crime, adapting smuggling networks used for trade in drugs and firearms to deal in live creatures and wildlife products.

Officials speak of growing evidence that criminals from the region are involved in badger-baiting, dog fighting and cockfighting, sometimes to raise money for drugs deals.

Anyone with information on the incidents, or who sees anything suspicious near setts, is asked to ring the police, or Durham Badger Group, via Durham Wildlife Trust, on 0191-584 3112.