Police are appealing for information following the theft of 17 sheep near Dorchester, Dorset.
The cream-coloured Dorset Horn and Polled Dorset pedigree ewes were taken from a field in the area between Crossways, Owermoigne and Moreton.
Dorset Police said the sheep rustling theft is believed to have happened sometime overnight on Saturday 26 May.
Police community support officer Sarah Hart said: “I am appealing to anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity in the area over the weekend, such as any 4×4 or trailer movements at night, or who has any information that could assist with the investigation to please contact us.
“We would also urge farmers and members of the rural community to be vigilant and report any suspicious vehicle movements they encounter.”
Thieves often see livestock as easy pickings – especially in isolated rural areas.
Despite hundreds of sheep rustling incidents across the UK, a Farmers Weekly investigation last year found just nine of cases that resulted in a conviction.
In total, some 1,203 incidents of sheep rustling were reported to 45 police forces between April 2012 and April 2017 – equivalent to 4.62 incidents every week.
Cumbria Constabulary recorded 262 incidents over this period, the highest of all forces, followed by West Mercia Police and Devon and Cornwall Police with 130 and 122 cases, respectively.
North Wales Police recorded 67 cases, and South Wales Police 42.
Anyone with information about the Dorset incident is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 101, quoting occurrence number 55180080665.
Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
Take action to reduce livestock theft
Livestock theft is notoriously difficult to prevent – but police say farmers and smallholders can take action to reduce the chance of being targeted.
- Check livestock and the security of perimeter fencing regularly
- If sheep or cattle are making more noise than usual it could mean something has disturbed them
- Make sure gates to the field are secured by using a suitable chain and padlock and ensure hinges are capped or inverted to prevent their removal
- Block any unused gateways with machinery or large tree trunks
- Use herd or flock ear tags, horn brands, freeze marking or tattooing to make your animals more easily identifiable should they be stolen
- Install CCTV in barns or yards and keep gates locked
- Use hard landscaping such as ditches, mounds and hedges to make vulnerable fields less easily accessible for vehicles. Installing bollards and removable cattle grids can also be effective
- Installing remote gate alarms and hidden cameras that will alert owners instantly if someone unauthorised is driving vehicles across their land.
(Source: Dorset Police)