POLICE have launched an investigation after a walker found six deer – including fawns – which had been ‘butchered’ in a case of suspected poaching.

Rossendale police said they responded to the ‘disturbing incident’ in the Dunnockshaw area at the top of Limey Valley, and found the animals had been ‘skinned’, with their antlers sawn off and also had the carcasses ‘butchered’ for meat.

The incident was reported to police on February 16 at around 11am, but officers say it is possible the deer were killed in another location and their remains dumped.

PCSO Chris Hamer said: “It is despicable that people are going about killing deer and are just discarding the remains and even the fawns.

“We think they are roe deer and female doe deer and they are out of season. We occasionally get reports of poaching up the moors in rural locations in the village that don’t get reported.

“It is very rare that we find the remains of the deer left. It is likely that the meat is being sold to people in the area.

“The animals have been killed illegally and we would like to offer advice to residents to identify offenders.

“Look out for unusual vehicles accessing and parking in remote areas, 4x4s and vans in particular. People carrying firearms. Dogs are often carried in poachers’ vehicles.

“Bright lamps are often used but for minimal amounts of time to avoid detection.

“Vehicles could have front end damage as poachers sometimes chase and knock down deer before killing them.”

Officers will be conducting patrols to target offenders and are asking the public if they have any information.

PCSO Hamer added: “People on farms are our best ally in these cases as they know people coming up lanes and if they see 4x4s and they have lurchers that may be another sign or have dogs that would hunt them.

“We also want to advise people in the area not to buy venison from unscrupulous sources. Poached meat is commonly left in fields for days before collection, prepared in dirty conditions and contaminated.

“We take these reports seriously as with any crime and it is important to protect our wildlife.”

People are urged to call police on 101 if they see anything they suspect to be poaching, or 999 if they believe a crime is in progress.