Brandon: Professional poachers strike

Gangs of professional poachers have struck again in the heart of Breckland and killed an unknown number of red deer, according to the Norfolk head of Farm Watch.

The poachers, armed with high calibre rifles and night vision equipment, have even been brought refrigerated transport to take away the freshly-shot deer carcases, said Tony Bone.

In the latest incident at Weeting, near Brandon, farmer Robert Childerhouse said that the gang had killed deer.

“These are not chancers but are very well organised groups. They come in for a night and then do three or four estates. We know that they have taken eight to 10 deer back in a refrigerated van,” said Mr Childerhouse.

Other farmers and nearby estates have also reported incidents of deer poaching. Jim Rudderham, of Lord Iveagh’s Elveden estate, said that the problem had become much more serious in the last few months. They had recently had a big red deer stag killed in savage circumstances by poachers, who had apparently used attack dogs to bring the animal down before it was knifed to death.

Mr Childerhouse, who also works for a firm of land agents in Newmarket, said that these so-called professional poachers had also struck in other parts of the Thetford Forest. In the latest incident, they had also caused “a huge amount of crop damager as they rip-roar across the fields”.

There was a further risk to people living in isolated cottages and houses in the forest when poachers shot without regard for the consequences.

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He recognised that it was often very difficult to raise the alarm because these gangs arrived late at night or in the early morning. “Unless you see and hear them, they’re unlikely to be seen or noticed. And if they’re disturbed they’re off to the next farm or estate,” said Mr Childerhouse, who is also treasurer of Wayland Agricultural Society.

He had raised the issue at the latest Country Land and Business Association’s regional committee and Nicola Currie, regional director, has also voiced members’ concerns at regional police meetings.

“The police are very well aware of our concerns and also the scale of poaching,” she said.

Arable and outdoor pig farmer Mr Childerhouse said that the longer nights had helped poachers.

“We’ve had fairly full moons, so they can get out without putting on too many lights. When they do four or five farms in a hit they’re getting six, eight or 10 carcases across all of those farms.