Warwickshire Police is urging rural communities to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity, after a number of incidents of sheep being stolen and illegally butchered in the county this month.
On March 2 officers were called to an incident near Wibtoft, Rugby, where seven sheep were found to have been killed and butchered in a yard (incident number 179 of March 2).
At around 1am on March 7, officers were called to a farm in Wasperton, Warwick, where offenders were disturbed but took a pregnant ewe. Officers were called and responded, investigations are ongoing (incident number 10 of March 7).
On March 9, police were called to a farm in Banbury Road in Gaydon. It's reported twelve ewes were killed and butchered in a field (incident number 110 of March 9).
It's reported that similar incidents have also recently taken place in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, and officers are linking in with border forces are part of the investigation.
Carol Cotterill, rural crime officer at Warwickshire Police said: "Theft and illegal butchery of sheep is a serious offence, which can cause suffering to the animals and financial repercussions to farmers. Enquiries are currently ongoing into the above incidents and we would urge anyone who has witnessed any suspicious activity or has any information that could help with our enquiries to please come forward.
"We also ask all owners of livestock and residents who live near fields with livestock in to be extra vigilant and to report any concerns to us. There is also concern that if offenders are chasing the sheep before catching them, this may have cause problems with the rest of the flock such as health risks to the ewes and unborn lambs.
"We are warning all sheep farmers to stay extra vigilant, particularly those who have fields in more remote locations. Always ensure gates are locked and are in good working order.
"Members of the public should also be mindful of being offered meat for sale in suspicious circumstances.
"If you suspect someone has attempted to target your animals, or find that you've lost livestock in this way, please report it to police immediately."
Any suspicious activity should be reported to police on 101. In an emergency, people should call 999.
Information can also be shared anonymously on Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.