Police are warning poachers to stay out of North Yorkshire, as the force ramps up a new anti-poaching operation.
Insp Matt Hagen, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “Poachers often have no regard for farmers and landowners, causing thousands of pounds of damage to crops.
See also: Rural crime reaches eight-year high
“Victims are often intimidated or even threatened with violence if they challenge offenders, leaving them feeling vulnerable to further crimes, particularly in isolated areas.
“On top of that, evidence suggests that poaching offenders are also involved in other aspects of criminality – including the organised theft of quad bikes and farm machinery.”
Officers are working hand-in-hand with local communities, said Insp Hagen.
“Reports of poaching will be taken extremely seriously, so poachers will find it very difficult to enter and leave North Yorkshire unchallenged.”
Typically, poachers hunt brown hare or deer. Under the National Police Chiefs’ Council Wildlife Crime and Rural Affairs strategies, tackling these offences is a national policing priority.
As well as being a wildlife crime, this illegal activity can cause widespread damage to crops, fields and fences, and leave farmers and landowners in fear of violence and retaliation.
About 80% of poaching incidents in North Yorkshire take place between September and February – typically on open farmland after crops have been harvested.
The districts of Hambleton, Selby and Ryedale are worst-hit. Many offenders travel into North Yorkshire from elsewhere in the region to commit their offences.
In a new operation – Operation Figaro – North Yorkshire Police say they will now robustly target poachers to put a stop to their illegal activity.
This year, a list of people suspected of being involved in poaching in the past will get a letter from North Yorkshire Police, advising them not to commit further offences in the county. Some of these may be hand-delivered, to make sure the message hits home.
Anyone caught poaching will be summonsed to court, while those stopped in suspicious circumstances will be issued with a community protection warning or notice.
Officers will also act on information from local communities – with rural watch schemes and social media groups acting as the “eyes and ears” of the police.