A BADGER has died after it was found poisoned in woodland used by locals and dogwalkers.
The animal, which is a protected species, was spotted in a sickly state in Oakdene Woods off Tichborne Way, in Holbrook, Gosport.
Walker Janet Lucas went to its aid as she took her daily afternoon stroll through the copse.
Although alive, a vet decided to put the badger down as it was suffering.
Experts believe it died of poisoning, but it's not known if it was deliberate or accidental.
Pet owners are now being warned to be careful in case their cats or dogs suffer the same fate.
Ms Lucas, from nearby The Chine, said: 'I saw something moving in the bushes and at first I thought it might be one of the cats I often see there. But I was amazed to see it was a badger.'
Ms Lucas and her friend Liz Kemp stayed with the animal until wildlife consultant and badger expert Brian Masterton arrived. He took the badger to the vet.
Mr Masterton said: 'We do try and get them treated, but unfortunately in this instance it was too late. Killing a badger is a crime, so if anyone is caught, they could face prosecution.
'Something like this isn't that common. Sometimes it's a resident, or it could be something more sinister.
'The main concern now is for people's pets, for cats and dogs that are off the lead. If somebody is laying poison it's going to kill anything that eats it indiscriminately.
'Local pet owners need to be aware of this and they should be concerned about their animals.'
Antony Bielovich, of Companion Care Vets, in Park Gate, examined the badger when it was brought to him on Sunday afternoon.
He said: 'The signs were all suspicious of it being poisoning because of the development of its symptoms and how it was found.'
The police have been informed.