North Yorkshire Police warned of a surge in sheep thefts which they said were often ‘hidden in plain sight’.
A man has been arrested following the theft of a 65-strong flock of sheep and goats in the Hambleton area of North Yorkshire.
The arrest was made on February 4 after the 54-year-old from Middlesbrough was caught red-handed on the scene on suspicion of theft and possession of cannabis.
The sheep had been dumped in a field unknown to the landowner.
North Yorkshire Police Rural Taskforce believe the flock to be stolen.
Inspector Jon Grainge said: “We are making every effort to identify the owners of this livestock, and are keen for anyone who has had sheep or goats stolen since lambing 2016 to contact us by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, giving as much information as possible to assist with identification.
“There are likely to be many similar fields across North Yorkshire and further afield.
“If you notice anything unusual – a different person attending a flock, or offers of sheep or goats for sale either for meat or as stores – please contact us. If you are able to get any names, vehicle details, and registrations or even partial registrations we would like to know.”
Insp Grainge issued the warning about the theft of sheep after identifying many were often stolen for the illegal meat trade whilst others were ‘hidden in plain sight’ in open view in fields and barns.
He added: “The difficulty with the nature of this crime is that it is not necessarily immediately obvious to farmers, who may only be able to identify their shortfall at the time of bringing sheep in to scan or to worm, which often gives a very wide time frame for us to work with.
“Lines of enquiry are limited, and this is where we need the public’s help to call in suspicious movements of animals, or animals appearing in fields unexpectedly.”