OFF-ROAD bikers have been caught on camera ripping up soil and peat causing damage to wildlife habitats and moorland.

Three bikers were filmed pulling skids and wheelies across Darwen Moors on Sunday February 2, by former Darwen resident, David Livesey.

Mr Livesey said the men had caused a huge amount of damage to the peat on the moors, and contacted the police and Natural England to report the crime.

He said: "This area is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and these three chaps are causing damage to the precious peat, which accumulates at 0.5mm per annum, so they literally do decades of damage.

"It’s illegal for them to be doing this under SSSI regulations and the police can take action too as this is a breach of the Road Traffic Act."

Mr Livesey, who visits the moors at least once a month, said when the surface of the moss and peat on the moors is scuffed, it could take 30-40 years for the land to recover.

He said: "The UK contains around 75 per cent of the world's peat moorlands and this is why our moors have their protection of being a site of special scientific interest.

"It happened at around 11.30am on Sunday February 2.

"I first saw and confronted them on the north eastern section near the tower.

"They then headed south onto United Utilities land and I confronted them a second time near the Lords Hall.

"So they covered much of the moor.

"They then left via a Tockholes entrance and are probably all local."

PC Stuart Knowles who is investigating the incident said: "We'd been contacted about the off-road bikes being on the moors and are continuing to try to identify the people involved.

"From a police point of view we are concerned about the Road Traffic side of things, but also want to help Natural England with identifying the culprits.

"Their concern is the damage to the moors, as the land is an SSSI site - a site of special scientific interest.

"If we catch them they will get a warning and if we find out they've already had a warning for similar offences, they will have the bikes confiscated."

On Monday, police published an appeal to help find one of the bikers, along with a photograph.

A spokesperson for the police said: "We're looking to ID this male in relation to an incident in which off-road scrambler bikes have been ridden on Darwen moor near to and around Belmont village which is protected land.

"The male has been seen on a green coloured bike.

"If you have any information on the identity of this male or those causing damage on the moors please contact PC 2991 Mansfield on 101 or email"

Lancashire Telegraph: Police want to identify this manPolice want to identify this man

Natural England, who are part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were contacted for a statement but declined to comment.