Dozens of sheep worth thousands of pounds have been stolen as police warn of the devastating impact of livestock theft on farmers' livelihoods.
Police are appealing for information and urging farmers to be vigilant, after nearly 80 sheep were stolen from a North Yorkshire Moors farm.
Sometime in the last few months, 41 ewes and 38 lambs belonging to a farm in Castleton went missing from open moorland.
The farmer has contacted neighbouring farms, but there is no sign of the sheep.
There sheep were all of the distinctive Rough Fell breed, and most have yellow tags bearing the number 127821.
They also have their left ear notched and two blue stripes across their back.
The stolen sheep have a value of thousands of pounds. Their details have been circulated to auctioneers, Rural Watch groups and other police forces.
North Yorkshire Police’s specialist rural crime officers are urging farmers and residents in rural areas to be vigilant.
Inspector Matt Hagen of the force's Rural Taskforce said: “Farmers are doing their best to make a living and keep food on our tables in these difficult times – so having livestock stolen is the last thing they need.
“Livestock theft can be devastating for farmers and their businesses, as well as causing unnecessary suffering to animals.
"We take all reports extremely seriously as we work to keep these criminals away from North Yorkshire’s farms.”
Anyone with information about the sheep – particularly if they are found in a different location or offered for sale – is asked to contact PC 829 Wayne Leith, by emailing email@example.com, quoting reference number 12200165977.
It comes as livestock rustlers recently stole more than 100 lambs from a farm located in the Penruddock area of Penrith, Cumbria.
How can I improve livestock security?
Officers are offering crime prevention advice to farmers, urging people to report suspicious activity in the countryside, and are keeping up regular patrols in rural areas:
• Ensure your stock is clearly marked, and records are kept up-to-date,
• Consider investing in a high-tech marking system,
• Where possible, graze livestock in fields away from roads,
• Check stock regularly – and vary feeding and check-up times,
• Join a Rural Watch scheme to share information about rural crime in your area,
• Report any suspicious activity to North Yorkshire Police, via 101, and ask neighbours to do the same,
• Dial 999 immediately if a crime is in progress – do not approach the suspects yourself.