TWO lurchers were seized by police during anti-poaching dawn raids.

Police arrested a man in his mid-twenties under suspicion of animal cruelty following the operation in the North Valley area of Colne.

It came as another lurcher, believed to have been used for poaching, was found dead in a field in Roughlee.

Police said the two incidents were unconnected but were part of a wider problem of illegal poaching in the area.

It follows two arrests and the seizure of six dogs in Nelson last month, also for animal cruelty.

The swoops were part of Operation Gateway, one of East Lancashire’s biggest ever crackdowns on wildlife crime being carried out by police and RSPCA officers.

The offenders are suspected of training their dogs to maim and kill animals, including cats, badgers and deer, for fun.

Police said the dead lurcher was found on land off Blacko Bar Road, when the farmer went to tend to his sheep.

He discovered one of his animals covered in bite marks and blood.

He said: “I found the sheep, which had been bitten all over its body and was covered in blood. Then I found the dog.

“I think they were here hunting rabbits and it went for a sheep and they killed it, either accidentally or on purpose. These people live in a different world from us. It’s savage.

“Hopefully the sheep won’t die, but it could well do over the next couple of days. It’s in shock and is on antibiotics to help stop any infection.”

Force Wildlife Crime Officer, Mark Thomas, said: “It would appear that the dog has been worrying a sheep which has escaped from a neighbouring field.

“The sheep is being treated for a bite mark but the dog has no injuries, which leads me to believe it may have been strangled.

“Unfortunately the dog is not microchipped, so I’d appeal to anybody that has any information about how the dog came to be in the field, or who it belongs to, to call police on 101.”

Sgt Shaun Pearson, of Nelson Police, said: “Poaching and wildlife crime is a prevalent problem in Pendle. Some people have been brought up doing it, but most people find it abhorrent.

“We are working in conjunction with the RSPCA to pull these suspects in.”