THREE captive fox cubs were killed, and a fourth had to be put to sleep, having been shot in the head by a trespasser near Wellington.

Six fox cubs were being cared for by a landowner, in a pen, on private land at Wellisford, as part on a RSPCA soft release' scheme.

When the fox carer went to feed them on Thursday night he discovered that three of the cubs had been killed and a fourth one was severely injured and subsequently had to be put down to end its suffering. The other two foxes were not injured and have been released elsewhere.

A post-mortem veterinary examination revealed that each of the four dead cubs, which were 12-14 weeks old, had been shot in the head twice with an air rifle.

Soft release is a process used by the RSPCA to rehabilitate juvenile wildlife, prior to releasing it back into the wild, following care in a wildlife centre. It involves placing young wildlife, such as orphaned foxes, which have spent some time in captivity, into an isolated pen and then feeding them for four weeks prior to releasing them.

For the full story, read the County Gazette on Thursday, July 12.