COUNTRYSIDE enthusiasts have teamed up to help police tackle an increase in deer poaching.

A deer watch group has been set up to monitor Ferryhill Carrs nature reserve, at Ferryhill, and other poaching hotspots in the south Durham area.

Volunteers formed the group after attending a public meeting that was called by police following a series of incidents, including the slaughter of two pregnant deer, at the reserve in March.

They have erected signs in the area warning potential poachers that they are being watched, in a bid to deter further offences, and plan to report suspicious activity and evidence back to police.

One of the volunteers, who asked not to be identified, said: “I’m just an animal lover who was concerned to hear about the poaching and killing of deer.

“I asked around and a few people, including farmers in the Ferryhill, Bishop Middleham and Mainsforth areas who are worried about the problem, have come forward to keep their eyes open and encourage people who might be out walking to be vigilant and report anything that looks suspicious to the police.”

Neil Langthorne, police community liaison officer at Spennymoor neighbourhood police team, said police and wildlife officers patrol the area and do not wish to encourage the public to put themselves at risk.

But he said it is useful to have a network of wildlife enthusiasts who will be extra vigilant, raise awareness of rural crime and provide a link between the community and those organisations involved in regional operations to tackle rural crime which are held four times a year.

He said: “It is not a massive problem but an issue some people in that locality are quite passionate about and something we are keen to work with them on.

“We have very positive Farmwatch schemes but always find farmers’ time is very precious so we see this as a good step, another way to work closely with the rural community.”