Police are investigating the theft of 75 sheep from a Highland farm in what has been branded a “despicable” crime.
The animals are thought to have been taken from a farm at Tomatin some time between December last year and this month, but it has only now come to light.
A police spokeswoman said inquiries are ongoing and anyone with information is asked to get in contact by calling 101.
The alleged rustling is said to involve Scottish Black Face ewes, south type. They consist of 40 breeding ewes, regular aged and 35 wether hogs (castrated males). All are branded on their right horn with ‘MSF’ and marked with a red spot on their right side.
‘Everyone needs to be on their guard’
The theft has been highlighted on social media, but local farmers and community leaders were unaware which farm had been targeted.
Inverness South councillor Duncan Macpherson said: “It’s a particularly despicable crime for our hard-pressed farmers and crofters.
“Everyone needs to be on their guard and I hope that by highlighting this people will be more aware and be more diligent. I hope they will come forward to report any suspicious behaviour seen in and around farms to the police, because that will help catch those stealing livestock.”
Andrew Connon, vice president of National Farmers Union Scotland, said: “Rural crime is on the increase and we are very concerned about that. Livestock theft is stealing someone’s livelihood basically.”
Jimmy Duncan, chairman of Strathdearn Community Council, urged anyone with information to contact the police to help catch the culprits.
He added: “I hope they are found soon and if found guilty the full force of the law should be used.”
Rural crime on the rise
Last year rural insurer MFU Mutual said cases of sheep rustling rose by almost 15% year-on-year at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. It said there was a spike in reports of livestock, mainly sheep and lambs, being stolen in April.
It said the cost of rural crime in Scotland had risen by 44% to £2.3 million the previous year, with gangs targeting expensive tractors and quad bikes as well as livestock.
The company’s annual report said the cost of rural crime across the UK rose almost 9% in 12 months to £54 million.
In February, more than 15 pregnant English Mules breed sheep, worth about £3,000, were stolen from a farm at Fordyce.
And in January, a single Beltex pedigree sheep, worth more than £2,500, disappeared from a farm near Cawdor.