Fox hunt men deny digging into badger sett near Chulmleigh

North Devon Gazette

A pair of terrier men who are accused of digging into a badger sett have told a judge they were only trying to dispatch an injured fox.

Seward Folland and Nathan Bowes are on trial at Exeter Magistrates Court after they were filmed by activists as they blocked exits to holes in woodland near Chulmleigh in November 2019.

The prosecution allege they were interfering with an active badger sett but they told the court it was no longer in use and had been occupied by a fox which had gone to ground.

Monitors watching the Eggesford Hunt videoed the activity of two terrier men after a fox went to ground in the woods.

The defendants say they were trying to force it out of the hole into a net which they were holding over the only remaining exit point and their aim was to kill it humanely.

The men said they had been asked to dispose of the fox by a local landowner whose pheasant pens were under threat from the predator.

One of the men who were filmed by hunt monitors said he thought he’d been framed.

Folland, aged 75, of Puddington near Tiverton, and Nathan Bowes, aged 26, of The Bothy Kennels, Brixworth, Northampton, deny three charges of interfering badger setts.

The district judge who has been hearing the case has adjourned his verdict and will give his ruling later.

Folland said he had been a terrier man with the hunt that day for 45 years. He said he and Bowes laid nets to 'bolt the fox in the net to be humanely dispatched'.

He said foxes can 'push out' of holes by digging themselves out and he admitted he covered two holes in the sett but abandoned the operation when the hunt sabs turned up and challenged them.

He said: "It was a badger sett at one time,” but said he saw nothing to suggest it was still occupied by badgers.

Bowes told the court he set nets around the sett because he had checked it and it was not in current use. He understood the law and realised it was important to look for signs of recent habitation by badgers.

He said he was a kennel man for the Eggesford Hunt at the time and soon after getting to the spot, three hunt sabs wearing balaclavas and snoods turned up. He packed up the nets to try and defuse the situation.

He said he was there to 'humanely dispatch' a fox which had gone to ground with a pistol but it was unsafe to do so and he left on his quadbike.

Bowes returned the next day and found peanuts on the ground and several cameras. He said: “I felt I was being framed.”

In cross examination he said he filled in some holes and laid some nets to trap the fox which had gone to earth and was helping out the landowner who had a pheasant pen nearby.