THE planned cull of badgers in Gloucestershire could put unsuspecting residents at risk of being shot in the dark according to a campaigning group of landowners. Badgers will be shot with high velocity rifles in secret locations in the county and the Stroud 100 group has warned that walkers, campers and anyone innocently in the wrong place at the wrong time could be accidently injured or killed if the exact locations are not confirmed.

Jeanne Berry, founder of Stroud 100 which was launched in November 2011 said: "It is totally gobsmacking that there will be gunmen roaming the countryside at night shooting high velocity rifles.

"There is a significant danger that people out walking at night or early in the morning could be shott. People have a right to know where these shootings are going to take place."

The cull is due to start in early autumn and trained gunmen will shoot badgers in an attempt to tackle the spread of TB in cattle.

Representatives of the organisations behind the cull have said locations must be kept secret for safety reasons. A spokesman for Natural England, the government body responsible for issuing badger cull licences, said: "For security reasons we will not publish maps of the two pilot areas, nor will we identify individual land holdings or participants. "The culling of badgers is a sensitive issue and we believe that the release of this information could, by helping to identify areas where the control of badgers is proposed, impact adversely upon the protection of individuals, businesses and public or private property."

A spokesman for Gloucestershire Police said: "Safeguarding the public is of paramount importance. The people who will be carrying out the cull will be licensed and experienced weapon holders and users. Each licence applicant will have undertaken training which will have included safety precautions."

The Badger Trust is currently fighting the proposals through the courts and has successfully lodged an appeal after failing in a High Court bid to block the cull.

It is likely to be heard before the end of September.

The Trust says that vaccination, alongside stringent cattle-testing and movement restrictions, would be more effective.