Police have warned farmers to take extra caution following the theft of over 200 sheep from a farm in Wiltshire.
Wiltshire Police have confirmed that 220 Romney sheep have been stolen from the Hindon area at some point between February 1st and March 8th.
In response to recent media coverage regarding livestock thefts, the force said it wants to reassure rural communities that it takes all reports of livestock theft seriously.
Over the last 5 years, Wiltshire Police have had 17 recorded thefts involving sheep in the predominantly rural county.
The Wiltshire Rural Crime Team is working closely with local farmers to help put preventative measures in place to protect their livestock.
Rural Crime Officer PC, Emily Thomas said: “We understand the negative impact livestock theft has on the victims, both financially and emotionally.
“In 2018 we had 4 reports of the theft sheep in Wiltshire. Whereas this is a relatively low number, there is always more to be done to support our rural communities and the unique issues they face,” she said.
Sheep rustling is a notoriously difficult crime to investigate as there are often no lines of enquiry to pursue with no suspects identified.
PC Thomas added: “When farmers have a large herd of several hundred animals, it can be difficult to notice if some of the heard are missing straight away.
“Sometimes the theft of animals is not picked up on until the flock are rounded up and counted, this can mean a delay in reporting and no clear picture of when the theft took place.”
The police said there are simple precautions farmers should take to help protect their livestock from being stolen.
• Check the security of boundary fencing regularly, and ensure gates are locked
• Make regular checks on livestock and the fields where animals are kept. Varying feeding and check-up times
• Ensure all animals are tagged and records are up to date
• Tagging options include: ear tags, horn brands, freeze marking or tattooing. These all make animals more easily identifiable
• Where possible, graze livestock in fields away from roads
• Keep hedges, fences and gates in good repair: field gate hinges should have capping hinges so they can't be removed easily; cattle grids should be removable and locked out of position when they're not in use; use locking posts to obstruct large openings to yards
• Ask neighbours to report any sightings of unusual vehicles loading sheep
• Report all thefts as soon as they are noticed - do not be deterred by a lack of detail
• Consider installing CCTV
• Put something heavy in front of gates to make life harder for thieves
• Don't leave trailers or anything that can be used to steal/transport the sheep
• Don't leave keys in vehicles, even if they are in your yard
• If animals are being kept or reared in barns or out-buildings, make sure that gates and doors are securely locked