WILDLIFE champions have reacted with shock after a butchered deer carcass was discovered in a field.
The sika deer had been disembowelled and had its head and hind legs removed before it was found by a dog walker on moorland near Clitheroe.
Now police are urging anybody offered cheap meat on the black market to call them immediately.
PC Carl Chew, Ribble Valley wildlife crime officer, said there had been an increase in the number of cases of poaching reported to them.
He said: “The body had been left hidden at the side of the road behind a dry stone wall.
“It could not be established how the deer had been killed or why it had not been taken away, but we have seen an increase in this type of incident in the area.
“There is a black market because it is cheaper than going to the butchers. The problem is you do not know what you are getting.
“There will be increased police anti-poaching patrols in this area and we will also be utilising local gamekeepers, deer managers and members of the public in trying to identify offenders.
“We are getting calls in relating to these offences but I ask the public to report any incidents which they believe are suspicious.”
The officer put the increase in reports down to alerts being sent out via the Lancashire In The Know system.
The deer, which was found on Twiston Moor, was reported to police on Monday. There are more than 1,000 roe deer, about 100 sika and only around 20 red deer in East Lancashire.
PC Chew said carcasses would often be sold to restaurants, hotels and pubs for between £40 to £60.
Butchers tend to pay around £150 from licensed shooters for the meat.
PC Chew said: “It is not worth the risk.
“In this latest case the deer had been butchered in a field and you do not know what was hanging around. It was probably left overnight and you do not know what has been at it.”
PC Chew said he was planning to hold a rural crime meeting with guest speakers to describe the problems of poaching and what people should be looking for.
Anybody with information about wildlife crime should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.