North Yorkshire Police has announced the launch of Operation Figaro, with rural officers poised to take direct action against anyone suspected of poaching activities.
Approximately 80 per cent of reported poaching incidents - where people illegally hunt wildlife, most commonly hare and deer - occur between September and February, with offences rising from August onwards.
Although a wildlife crime, poaching can impact on farmers, causing damage to crops fields and fences, as well as leaving local residents in fear of violence and retaliation.
Hambleton, Ryedale and Selby are the worst-afflicted areas by poachers in North Yorkshire, and police suspect many travel into the county from other parts of the region.
Last weekend, two suspected poachers in Richmondshire were left with an untaxed vehicle fine after residents spotted them and raised the alarm.
Members of a Rural Watch group alerted police after spotting a suspicious vehicle on land near Newton Morrell last Saturday morning.
Officers located the vehicle an hour later and spoke to two men with dogs near Barton, issuing a fine for an untaxed vehicle. There were about 75 reports of poaching incidents in the Richmondshire area in the 12 months up to April 2020.
This year, a list of people suspected of being involved in poaching in the past will receive letters from North Yorkshire Police, warning them against committing further offences. Some of these may be hand-delivered to make sure the message hits home, the force has said.
Inspector Matt Hagen, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said: “Our officers, some of whom have farming backgrounds, know the terrible impact poaching can have on rural communities.
“Poachers often have no regard for farmers and landowners, causing thousands of pounds of damage to crops. Victims are often intimidated or even threatened with violence if they challenge offenders, leaving them feeling vulnerable to further crimes, particularly in isolated areas.
“On top of that, evidence suggests that poaching offenders are also involved in other aspects of criminality – including the organised theft of quad bikes and farm machinery."
It comes as a report from NFU Mutual this week revealed that the cost of rural crime to farmers in North Yorkshire rose by 23 per cent last year, with considerable rises in sheep reported stolen.
Insp Hagen added: “Officers are working hand-in-hand with local communities. Reports of poaching will be taken extremely seriously, so poachers will find it very difficult to enter and leave North Yorkshire unchallenged.”