"Horrific wildlife persecution" is taking place in the Peak District, police have revealed.

Badgers are being ensnared and shot at the Peak District National Park in a bid to stop them killing grouse ahead of bird-hunting season.

Shocking footage shows a masked gamekeeper shoot at a badger ensnared in a trap. He does not kill the animal, but leaves it to die with two wires still lodged in its neck.

Campaigners at the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) filmed the video. They claim that the animals were deliberately targeted to prevent them from killing grouse.

Badgers are a protected species and it is illegal to use snares to catch them.

A spokeswoman for HIT said: "The sad thing is grouse eggs are not even a major part of a badger's diet, they're just a small part of it, so the persecution is completely disproportionate."

"Driven grouse shooting is not compatible with wildlife protection. What has been peddled as a traditional and respectable custom is actually at the expense of so much of the wildlife," she said.

The shootings have been taking place on private land owned by the Duke and Duchess of Rutland from the Belvoir Estate in Leicestershire. The couple said that they were unaware of any alleged illegal activities being carried out on their estate.

"They are horrified by these allegations and will investigate them fully," a statement read.

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: "People are understandably distressed by these images, taken on a private estate. Conserving and enhancing the natural beauty and wildlife of the National Park is something we work hard to achieve with our partners. We will support the police in their investigation."

Derbyshire police said that an investigation has been launched.