POLICE have launched a crackdown on poaching at a  County Durham nature spot after reports of game being mutilated near public footpaths.

Officers say there have been a number of reports of poaching at Castle Eden Dene, near Easington, in east Durham, over the last few weeks, with small game left mutilated near public footpaths and reports of dogs being used to chase down deer, either to its death or for its owner to kill.

Peterlee Police says it is carrying out nighttime patrols and is working closely with Natural England, which looks after the Dene, to try and prevent further instances and have issued a number of letters to people suspected of being involved.

A spokesperson for Durham Police said: “These persons risk seizure and forfeiture of any equipment, vehicles or animals used in the commission of poaching and the poaching letters act as a notice of intent to pursue those who continue to act in this cruel and illegal manner.

“We encourage members of the public to report any suspicious activity and will be conducting night patrols in various areas in order to combat further instances.”

Reports can be made by calling Durham Police on 101 or getting in touch with officer Ian Goodwin directly by emailing ian. goodwin@durham.pnn.police.uk.