DEER poachers are being hunted in rural parts of Lancashire after nearly 100 incidents were reported in the county in the last year.

Police said deer poaching increased in September as leaves fell from trees making it easier for hunters to spot the fleet-footed animals.

The poachers shoot, or use dogs to catch the animals before killing them and selling the meat on the black market, officers said.

Residents in ‘hot spot’ areas in the Ribble Valley and Pendle are being urged to report any suspicious activity.

According to officers there have been 94 incidents connected to deer poaching in Lancashire in the past year.

Many of them have been in the Forest of Bowland.

Police also identified wooded areas around Clitheroe, Longridge, Chipping, Waddington, and Pendleside as hot spot areas.

After catching and killing the animals, poachers often try to sell the venison meat in local pubs.

Police Constable Duncan Thomas, Lancashire’s wildlife officer, said: “It’s the sheer cruelty of the methods used by poachers, the associated criminality and the lack of standards in terms of game and venison handling that concerns us.

“Poachers will target deer indiscriminately and will have no respect for the females of the species with dependant or suckling young.

“As well as taking animals, poachers are often responsible for thefts from farms and rural areas, so it is not just the local wildlife that is affected by them but also rural residents.

“There are also the associated problems of threats to farmers and game keepers, along with damage to property and crops.”

As part of the crackdown police will work with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, the British Deer Society, the Forestry Commission, local gamekeepers, land owners and farmers.

To report suspicious activity related to deer poaching call police on 0845 1 253545 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.