Police are working with the Scottish Badger Association to find out if a live badger sett was put at risk during a tense stand-off between anti-hunt saboteurs and huntsmen on Fife farmland.
Wildlife crime officer Lindsay Kerr has confirmed there is a large badger sett yards from where a heated confrontation took place between members of the self-styled Perthshire Hunt Sabs and the Fife Foxhounds on farmland near Cupar.
Mr Kerr said inquiries were continuing to determine whether or not the badger sett was linked to a hole that a fox is believed to have hidden down while being pursued by hounds.
He confirmed he had been called to the incident on a hillside overlooking the Howe of Fife last Wednesday.
It came amid accusations hunters were about to illegally dig up a badger sett where the fox was believed to be hiding.
Dramatic videos posted online show footage of the confrontation.
Mr Kerr said the circumstances were still being investigated but he described both the hunters and Sabs group as “basically all decent people” whose “passions run high”.
Confirming the badger sett was at Skelpie Farm and not neighbouring Findas Farm as originally claimed by the saboteurs, he said: “If the hunters knew there was a sett nearby then it should have come down to common sense. They should have left it.
“The Sabs group started quoting me legislation about right to roam. But I told them they are not allowed to actively disrupt a legal event.
“With guns involved it was a possible recipe for disaster. I warned we did not want to cross a line.
“The last thing we wanted to do was for people to be arrested.
“Both sides made reasonable arguments. It came to a point of principle in the end.”
Mr Kerr said he had studied the Sabs’ footage of a terrier man raising a gun in the direction of a saboteur.
He thought some of the images were “slightly misleading”.
While the experienced gun handler may have been a “bit silly”, on balance he did not think the gun handling conduct had been reckless.
Meanwhile, a new national opinion poll released for Boxing Day, a major day in the hunting calendar, shows public support for the ban on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare hunting remain at an all-time high.
The poll, conducted by Ipsos MORI, shows 80% of the British public think fox hunting should not be made legal again, 86% think deer hunting should not be made legal again and 88% think hare hunting/coursing should not be made legal again.