A two and a half year investigation into organised wildlife crime and poaching networks by Avon & Somerset and Devon & Cornwall Police has resulted in five arrests being made
Business and residential properties were searched to investigate alleged offences for poaching and the illegal supply of meat.
Two men aged 37 and 42 were arrested for poaching offences and a further two men aged 19 and 57, and a 53 year old woman arrested in connection with firearms offences. All are on bail pending further enquiries.
Meat samples were taken and are undergoing testing to discover which animal species was being sold and carcases are also being tested to establish the weapons used to kill the animals.
Landowners lose out
Sgt Andy Whysall of the Avon & Somerset Police, working with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, commented: “This type of joint operation between police forces and other agencies sends a clear message to those who don’t believe that wildlife crime is taken seriously. It demonstrates that by working together with our partners we have the ability to deal with a wide range of offences and those involved in wildlife crime, poaching and trading standards offences are brought to justice.
“These are not victimless crimes, landowners lose out and ultimately the public are potentially at risk from food that isn’t checked and tested by the usual food standards. “
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Sector inspector for North Devon and Exmoor Roger Bartlett added: “I am delighted to see our partners joining with us in our efforts to tackle the scourge of poaching. With the work officers have been doing for a long time, I get a clear sense of the threats, fear and intimidation many people living in our rural and more isolated communities face from those involved, much of which is not reported.
Serious about targeting local poachers
“I hope this operation shows to local communities that we are serious about targeting local poachers and that it will give people the confidence to report their concerns to us, knowing that we will listen and act.”
Commenting on poaching, Chief Inspector Martin Sims, Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit: “Poaching is one of the country’s national wildlife priorities and operations such as this can only happen by all parties working together. The dedication shown by those involved to deal with this matter needs to be commended. It has taken a lot of hard work over a long period of time to get to this point and without their commitment and enthusiasm to deal with these individuals this operation would not have taken place today.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member on poaching: “Poaching is no longer always about a lone poacher taking something home for their larder, but an organised criminal operation where deer, fish and livestock are taken and often sold on for it to end up in restaurants, hotels or with meat suppliers.
“These people are in it for financial gain, and linked to other types of criminality. There have been instances of poachers trespassing and then shooting or using dogs to take deer and threaten landowners.
“With agencies working together we hope to be able to look beyond where the police have traditionally looked to combat poaching.”
If you wish to inform the police about poaching ring 101 or give information anonymously through Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111