People are being asked to be extra vigilant following a spate of deer poaching and deer coursing in Fife and Tayside.
In one incident, deer were seen running between vehicles on all four lanes of the A92 in Fife in a bid to escape their pursuers, endangering not only the deer but the public as well.
Environment Minister and Chair of Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) Scotland, Stewart Stevenson said:
"The fight against wildlife crime is of paramount importance to us and the illegal practice of deer poaching and coursing is unacceptable. I welcome the joint working by partners in Fife and Tayside to clampdown on this barbaric pursuit and would urge members of the public to report any suspicious activity to the local police."
Fife Council's Animal Health department, who are represented on the Fife Partnership Against Wildlife Crime, are looking into links with commercial distribution of poached game. The council will alert Fife police Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator Ian Laing if any links are suspected between poaching and venison products.
PC Laing said:
"We sometimes see an increase in poaching and coursing at this time of year because game is more evident in fields in which the crop has been harvested, and there are more hours of darkness. We suspect poachers are generally looking to make quick money by selling the venison, while the coursers mostly send their dogs to chase the deer for sport. In both cases, although particularly coursing, the deer are likely to suffer a cruel death.
"We have instances of people who are not legitimate, experienced deer stalkers failing to make a clean kill and leaving deer maimed, which a genuine deer manager would never do. The public can help by reporting suspicious activity involving, for example, unfamiliar vehicles or people. We would also ask that if you see torches being flashed around fields at night or find any discarded deer remains to contact the police"
Fife and Tayside police have also joined forces with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to carry out weekend patrols and further operations are planned.
Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates and Chair of the Police Poaching and Coursing Crime Priority Group in Scotland, Douglas McAdam said:
"Poachers and coursers, whatever their intended quarry, are unscrupulous and ruthless criminals with the advantages nearly all on their side. They tend to operate under cover of dark in remote rural areas and policing this sort of crime is clearly challenging. It is imperative then that those living and working in rural areas are switched on and aware of this illegal activity and act as the eyes and ears of the police on the ground.
"Active awareness raising in rural communities, intelligence gathering, responsive policing and then enforcement action on the ground are key in combating these crimes and in some areas we are now seeing the results. Scottish Land & Estates farming and estate members will continue to support Fife and Tayside police to make further progress in combating this area of serious rural crime."