Though poaching headed the list, protection for birds of prey, including the hen harrier, was also recognised as a major concern.

According to the government, actions to be taken to reflect its priorities will include stronger, co-ordinated responses to wildlife crime, specialist training for police officers, encouraging people to report crimes and intelligence gathering to help identify, detect and prosecute the criminals involved.

Commenting on the crime priorities, Irranca-Davies said: ?Wildlife crime matters, it has an impact on our environment and on the ecosystems, habitats and wildlife that supports our very existence. Information and intelligence are going to be key in this fight. We need to tackle these crimes through effective partnerships.?

Following last week?s news that police forces in Scotland are to target gamekeepers specifically to become special constables, the lack of resources to manage wildlife crime priorities in England was identified as a key problem by groups including the National Gamekeepers? Organisation (NGO).

An NGO spokesman said: ?It is good to see poaching among the government?s stated priorities. It would be better still to see some police resources to match. In many rural areas keepers outnumber the police many times over.?

The RSPB also called for greater police resources ? not against poaching, but to combat crime against birds of prey.

The charity?s Ian West commented: ?It is shameful that in the 21st century, birds of prey continue to be trapped, poisoned and shot in our countryside. Making these crimes a wildlife policing priority shows a renewed determination from government to tackle the problem. Naming crime against birds of prey as a priority is one thing, but police forces now need to be given the tools and the resources they require to treat it as such and to do an effective job.?