Members of the public are being asked to stay vigilant following a sickening series of attacks on wild animals in Aberdeen.
Last week three dead swans – two of which had been shot – were found stuffed inside plastic bags floating down the River Dee.
The gruesome find came just days after charity bosses revealed a deer in Sheddocksley had been mauled to death by dogs – saying the animal had injuries “consistent with deer coursing”.
The carcass was found by local man Dave Ritchie, who is now calling for more to be done to make people in the city aware of poachers.
He said: “The deer had horrific injuries, its throat had been torn out and the flesh on its legs stripped off.
“You don’t think of Aberdeen when you think of hunting, but the issue is a real cause for concern in the city.”
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Mr Ritchie’s discovery on February 17 was far from the first time he had found evidence of the “abhorrent practice”.
He added: “I regularly walk that area and several months ago found a partial skeleton of the deer.
“I’ve also come across a couple of severed legs and hoofs, it seems as though the activity has been going on for quite some time – years, in fact.
“I’ve heard there’s a gang in Seaton that are particularly bad for this, and that they film atrocities like this for the internet.
“More people need to be made aware that this is something that happens in the city, and to look out for suspicious behaviour.
“Plenty dog walkers have heard of it, but I don’t think other people realise it is a major issue.”
The Scottish Government revealed that the number of offences involving hunting with dogs was at an all-time high, with 44 last year.
And the north-east had the third-highest number of general wildlife-related offences, with 33 reported to police.
While animal charity the Scottish SPCA could not provide figures into the exact locations of the crimes in the region, it has urged people in Aberdeen to be more aware.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Animal coursing is a barbaric, sickening activity that continues to cause us concern in both Aberdeen and Scotland as a whole.
“We work closely with the police and assist in any way possible to catch those who are hunting animals such as deer and badgers by setting their dogs on them.
“These animals are being subjected to terrible suffering in areas where they should be safe. It’s not just about the ones caught and killed in this horrific way, but also the ones that escape and may die slowly of their injuries or due to infection.”