CAMPAIGNERS who attempted in vain to save a struggling badger cub have warned that hot weather is hitting wildlife, while pressure increases to drop a controversial badger cull.

The Oxfordshire Badger Group (OBG) could not save ‘Sunny’ - a dehydrated female found alone in North Hinksey - despite getting her to Aylesbury’s Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital.

OBG say the case illustrates the ‘terrible effects’ of the prolonged heatwave and drought on wildlife in the county.

News of the youngster, who was too weak to survive the night, comes as West Oxfordshire District Council are set to discuss warning the government against extending a badger cull in place in Gloucestershire – echoing a move by the county council last week.

Tiggywinkles say they have seen a 12 per cent increase in animals coming to the facility and that 'all wildlife is struggling in the heat', especially birds and hedgehogs.

It adds that dehydration and food shortage are the main issues.

A local wildlife trust also warned that the hot weather is having a negative impact on various species.

Debbie Lewis, Ecology Manager for the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust said: “If the hot weather continues, all may not be well for next year. As the plants for the caterpillars wilt in the heat, there will be little for them to eat.

"While birds and mammals struggle to find clean, fresh water to drink in the hot weather, food such as slugs and worms significantly decrease.

Meanwhile, a county council spokesperson has said an Oxfordshire badger cull would be damaging: “The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is considering whether to grant a licence to expand the badger cull to areas of lower risk, including Oxfordshire. There has been five years of culling in high risk areas at a cost to the UK tax payer of £50m so far.

“Not only has there been no significant reduction in bovine TB, there has actually been an increase. So far culling has had the effect of causing badgers to move to other areas. Any that do have TB may be spreading it further. This is entirely predictable and impossible to prevent. This council resolves to write to DEFRA saying that we are opposed to the licensing of a badger cull in Oxfordshire.”

DEFRA say licensed culling or vaccination of badgers is to control the spread of TB, as part of the strategy for achieving officially TB free status for England.

Councillor Susanna Pressel, who proposed the motion to reject the cull - which narrowly passed earlier this month - said: “The badger cull is a waste of public money, because it is not working. We have spent £50 million on it already and and TB actually increased.

“My opposition to culling is based on science, rather than sentiment.”

Julia Hammett, from OBG, added: ”Badgers and other wildlife are feeling the terrible effects of this prolonged heatwave and drought and are unable to build up their body weight to ensure that they can survive the summer, let alone build up reserves to face the winter months. Cubs and older badgers are at particular risk.

“It is distressing to know though that, despite the devastating toll that the heatwave is having on our badgers, the controversial supplementary cull, which has no scientific or animal welfare justification, has begun in Gloucestershire.

She continued: “Badgers can be trapped in cages for hours in the heat before being shot, which is unacceptably cruel."

The group is asking people to be vigilant and to seek help or call a wildlife hospital if they see a badger in distress. Wildlife groups also suggest putting water out in gardens.