A PARK ranger is using a double-barrelled shotgun to hunt down and kill moles in a popular park.

Dog walker Barry Winyard, 67, was mortified when he saw a ranger with the lethal weapon in Langdon Hills Country Park, Basildon.

When he asked what was going on, the ranger explained the moles were causing a big problem there.

Meanwhile, Thurrock Council has confirmed shooting was a last resort after the failure of mole traps, gassing and sound vibration equipment, which was put inside various mole holes.

Mr Winyard, of Westley Heights, Langdon Hills, still can’t believe what he saw on his daily walk at about 7.30am yesterday He said: “I saw the ranger with the shotgun. It was very disturbing.

“The park was open and there were dog walkers in there.

“What’s going on? For health and safety reasons alone it’s dangerous. What if a pellet hits a dog or even a child?

“It’s surely not right to just kill moles. I think it’s disgusting.”

Andy Lever, spokesman for Thurrock Council, which employs the rangers, said the ranger involved was fully trained and licenced to carry the shotgun.

He explained what was happening: “The soil in parts of the country park is full of pebble gravel which, when lifted by molehills, can become dangerous to staff and the public when grass cutting takes place. The mower blades can turn the pebbles into missiles.

“Staff regularly patrol the area and endeavour to stamp down mole hills. Other methods of keeping moles away from the grassland areas have also been tried.

“Unfortunately the most effective method is shooting.

“It has been carried out for many years and is done very early in the morning.”

Animal rights campaigner and Basildon and East Thurrock MP Angela Smith was also shocked.

Mrs Smith, a former officer of the League Against Cruel Sports, member of the RSPCA and patron of the Captive Animal Protection Society, said: “This isn’t the most humane way of dealing with this.

“How do they know they are killing an animal and not just injuring it and leaving it to die?

“Also it doesn’t seem sensible to have someone wandering around a park with a shotgun, especially during half-term.”

Insp Rachel Wood of Corringham police, whose patch includes the park, said officers will take all reports of “inappropriate use” of firearms seriously.