EXTRA patrols are being planned to crack down on poachers across a series of East Lancashire villages in the run-up to Christmas.

Deer and game thieves have been spotted in and around rural Barrowford, Higherford, Blacko and Barley in recent weeks.

Favourite areas have included reservoirs, such as Slipper Hill, and smaller forests in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

And with the festive season approaching, officers suspect more countryside intruders will attempt to step up their activities.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “While hundreds of deer are lawfully and professionally culled by trained deer stalkers every year, many more are cruelly killed by poachers looking to sell the meat on the black market.

“We tend to see a peak in this trade during the weeks surrounding Christmas. 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.”

The problem has been raised by residents at police community action meetings in Barrowford and Pendleside villages.