POLICE are warning poachers that they could face a court appearance and a Covid fine after incidents near Harrogate.

Officers on anti-poaching patrols located four 4×4 vehicles reportedly travelling in a convoy near Pateley Bridge at about 6pm on Sunday.

None of the occupants could provide a reasonable excuse for their presence, and all were issued with fixed penalty notices for breaching Covid-19 regulations.

In a separate incident the previous day, police received a report that a large group of men had gathered in Pateley Bridge.

Although the men drove off and were not found, crucial information was secured from police Rural Watch members.

Enquiries are ongoing into both incidents.

Insp Matt Hagen, from North Yorkshire Police, said: “It beggars belief that anyone would breach vital public health regulations to go poaching.

"But we’ve had a number of concerning reports from residents in rural parts of North Yorkshire, particularly around Pateley Bridge and Skipton, that this may be happening."

Insp Hagen said poachers can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to fields and crops and leave rural residents feeling extremely vulnerable and fearful.

Police have stepped up their patrols, particularly where reports have been received.