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Poaching: arrests in Wiltshire triple since launch of police's Operation Artemis  

Wiltshire has a healthy brown hare population but this attracts poachers for illegal hare coursing (Photo: Peter Thompson)Wiltshire has a healthy brown hare population but this attracts poachers for illegal hare coursing (Photo: Peter Thompson) Operation Artemis, which was launched last September by Wiltshire Police’s Rural Crime Team, has seen a dramatic increase in arrests for poaching, mainly due to better reporting to the police - including by rural groups such as the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.
Poaching can take many forms from illegal hare coursing with dogs, shooting deer at night, to using catapults to take pheasants. It is a unique offence that affects most rural areas and can be very stressful for people, property and wildlife.

PC Marc Jackson, who runs Operation Artemis for the Wiltshire Rural Crime Team, is delighted with its results:  “The image of the poacher ‘taking one for the pot’ has long since gone.  Poaching now frequently involves criminal gangs with links to other organised crime groups, often with large sums of money exchanging hands."

"They are involved in all elements of criminality affecting all communities across Wiltshire.  Their activities often lead to serious damage to property as well as potentially engaging in violence if challenged.  Although we are pleased with this result there is still much more to do to prevent this type of crime.”

"Gamekeepers, together with farmers and MOD staff are out day and night and are our eyes and ears in rural areas.”

Nick Stiff is Chairman of the Wiltshire Branch of the National Gamekeepers Organisation: “This important initiative sends a very clear message that poaching of any kind has no part to play in our working countryside.  We have witnessed first-hand the considerable damage that poaching can cause to our estate in Wiltshire and I am pleased to support the Rural Crime Officers in any way we can."

"We would also urge all our members to report any suspicious activity on their land to the police.  This is the only way we are going to stop these serious crimes happening in the county.”

Operation Artemis sits within the national operation, Project Poacher, which is coordinated throughout England and Wales by the National Wildlife Crime Unit. The success of this initiative has seen the numbers and types of convictions increase from 44 per cent to 55 per cent in the past six months.  

The initiative also has a free, easy to use app for reporting poaching incidents, which can be downloaded at www.projectpoacher.com

Although in decline in many areas, Wiltshire is fortunate to have a very healthy brown hare population, making the county an attractive target for illegal hare coursing with dogs.  However, through the success of Operation Artemis, it seems that poachers are now starting to target other counties such as Avon, Somerset and Dorset. 

Marc Jackson: “We are working with other Rural Crime Teams in nearby counties, who wish to set up their own Operation Artemis.  This will hopefully mean that these criminals have nowhere to hide and it will help to reduce their illegal operations substantially.”

Reporting any incidence of poaching is key to catching these criminals.  If it is an ongoing incident, you should call 999 or if the incident has already occurred call 101. Callers should make sure they clearly state ‘Operation Artemis’ to help the police track the call.  

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