The cost of rural crime in Scotland rose by 44% to £2.3 million last year, according to NFU Mutual.
Figures from the rural insurer reveal a rise in the cost of rural crime in every region and nation in the UK last year as criminal gangs targeted expensive tractors, quad bikes and large numbers of livestock.
The biggest percentage increase was seen in Scotland, although its rural crime cost remains below the UK average.
The insurer said cases of sheep rustling rose by almost 15% year-on-year at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and there was a spike in reports of livestock – mainly sheep and lambs – being stolen in April.
Farmers also experienced an “influx” of walkers on their land while reports of dog attacks on farm animals rose during the outbreak, the insurer said.
It also warned of fears that rural crime could escalate as the economic impact of the crisis hits.
The news comes as the company published an annual report indicating the cost of rural crime across the UK rose almost 9% in 12 months to £54m last year – its highest level for eight years.
“There’s no doubt that very determined organised criminal gangs are targeting Scotland’s countryside and without the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime (Sparc) initiative we would be seeing even higher costs,” said NFU Mutual regional manager for Scotland, Mark McBrearty.
“Latest figures from Sparc show that £329,000 of stolen machinery was recovered by Police Scotland between April and June 2020 thanks to shared intelligence and greater use of tracking devices.”
He said although theft claims for the first half of 2020 were down, the insurer was now seeing signs that thieves are becoming more active again.