Shetland pony Fergus helps police tackle rural crime in the Highlands

Fergus the Shetland pony has been helping Highland police as they urge local farmers and landowners to join the battle against wildlife crime.

The pint-sized pony stood guard at her home at Pooltown Farm at Gollanfield, near Inverness, as wildlife crime liaison officer Dan Sutherland toured the area.

He was visiting local farmers and meeting with NFU representatives yesterday to discuss issues affecting the area, and the benefits of joining the Rural Watch scheme.

Hare coursing, fuel thefts and other robberies have hit the headlines in rural areas in recent weeks and Constable Sutherland was keen to highlight the crucial role landowners can play in keeping farms and rural businesses safe.

He said: “The swift response from farmers and the wider rural network is key to stopping those intent on causing harm in their tracks, often quite literally.

“Rural Watch is an effective way of getting the message out about any suspicious activity so we would encourage anyone living or working in the countryside to sign up to the alerts.

“By working together we can all help protect farms and local communities from the damaging effects of wildlife and rural crime.

“By raising awareness of issues such as hare coursing recently we’ve seen a welcome increase in reports from the public and in turn we’ve reported three people to the procurator fiscal.

“Members of the public are thanked for their vigilance and support as we continue to tackle wildlife and rural crime in all its forms.

“If you spot something out of place or suspicious please don’t delay, phone police on 101 straight away.”

Police last month reported three men to the procurator fiscal in connection with hare coursing in the Ardersier area.

Hare coursing is the illegal pursuit of hares by dogs resulting in a barbaric, terrifying death for the animal.

Constable Sutherland was appointed as a permanent wildlife crime officer for Highland and Islands division in March last year following a successful six-month pilot of the police role.