Rural communities are being asked to be vigilant following reports of poaching in the county.

The Dorset Police Rural Crime shared a distressing image of a deer that had been mowed down by suspected poachers to highlight the callous nature of poachers and people operating illegal hare coursing events.

A spokesperson for the team said an increase in poaching usually follows the annual harvest whereby crops will be cut, allowing opportunities for poachers to course hare and other wildlife with sight hounds on stubble fields.

The photo was taken in 2021 in rural Christchurch, the spokesperson added.

They have shared information on poaching to help people understand the damage being done by criminals and informjation on how to help police

1. What is poaching?

Poaching is a criminal activity whereby persons will enter land and illegally catch and kill wildlife.

2. What may it look like on the ground?

Poaching can take place both night and day however indicators may be : - numerous persons in stubble fields watching sight hounds chase hare - Vehicles trespassing on agricultural land in pursuit of wildlife - Trespassers using high powers lamps to dazzle wildlife before setting about chasing and killing wildlife.

3. Why is it so important to tackle poaching?

The days of killing “one for the pot” are long gone. Poachers will often not use humane ways of dispatching wildlife and, as some court cases in Dorset show, will often look to cause wildlife additional trauma and pain. Sometimes poachers will look to cause this on purpose and for their own enjoyment.

Poaching can also cause distress for rural communities who will find crops and barrier fences damaged and whom can find themselves subject to threats or abuse from poachers.

4. What do I do if I witness poaching?

If you are witnessing poaching or suspected poaching dial 999.

If possible and safe to do so give the following information.

* The exact location (a map reference or local landmark can be useful). Use a what 3 words reference if you have it

* Who is involved (e.g. number of people, clothing worn, tools being carried, or any dogs)

* The make, colour and registration number of any vehicle

* If it is safe to do so take photos which may be used as evidence and remember to ask the police for an incident reference number.