Police have arrested a man on suspicion of stealing a flock of sheep which was found ‘hidden in plain sight’ on a North Yorkshire field.
The 54-year-old Middlesbrough man was arrested in Hambleton where a flock of around 65 goats and sheep were found on Saturday. He was also found to be in possession of cannabis.
After a tip-off from a member of the public, officers tracked down the animals which were in a field without the landowner's permission.
North Yorkshire Police are warning farmers about the theft of sheep that might only become apparent when they are scanned or wormed.
Inspector Jon Grainge, North Yorkshire Police said: "The difficulty with the nature of this crime is that it is not necessarily immediately obvious to farmers, who may only be able to identify their shortfall at the time of bringing sheep in to scan or to worm, which often gives a very wide timeframe for us to work with.
"Lines of enquiry are limited, and this is where we need the public’s help to call in suspicious movements of animals, or animals appearing in fields unexpectedly."
Over recent years, North Yorkshire Police and surrounding rural forces have taken an increasing number of reports relating to the theft of sheep.
The Rural Taskforce has said it has identified that sheep have been stolen, often in ones and twos, sometimes in trailer-loads.
Some will be destined almost immediately for the illegal meat trade, while others are ‘hidden’ in open view in fields and barns across a wide geographic area.