Armed police join forest rangers in crackdown on deer poachers

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2 JUNE 2011NEWS RELEASE No: 14636

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Armed police joined Forestry Commission Wales wildlife rangers in the toughest crackdown yet on deer poachers in South Wales.

Vehicle checkpoints were set up on roads adjoining the forest around Port Talbot as part of Operation Antler, a joint initiative between South Wales Police and FC Wales to tackle deer poaching and its association with the illegal use of guns.

It was the first time that armed officers had been used in the campaign to clamp down on poachers in a show of force overseen by Forest Crime Officer Andrew Scourfield, a police sergeant seconded to FC Wales.

Using stop and search powers under the Deer Act 1991 and the Firearms Act 1968, police officers handed out leaflets and anyone suspected of being involved in poaching or firearms-related offences had their cars searched.

FC Wales Wildlife Ranger Adrian Thomas coached officers on how the poacher works and gave tips on what evidence to look for, including the various types of firearms used.

Wildlife Rangers are highly skilled in dispatching deer humanely and safely to keep their numbers in check and to control their impacts on agriculture, forestry and vulnerable habitats.

The high profile crackdown, conducted in the Bryn and Goetre areas, followed several firearms-related incidents linked to deer poaching that had been reported by farmers, deer stalkers and members of the public during February and March.

Worrying examples of these incidents included:

• a farmer nearly being shot by a high powered rifle while feeding his sheep,

• people lamping fields at night adjacent to minor roads and shooting from vehicles,

• reports of armed trespass on Welsh Government and Woodland Trust land where deer are present, and

• a fallow deer buck being found dead with a cross-bow bolt through its jaw in Margam Country Park.

Sgt Scourfield said, “The purpose of this high visibility exercise was to act as a deterrent and send out a strong message to the poachers that their illegal activity will not be tolerated.

“This was the first time armed officers had supported a crackdown on deer poaching and it was as much a pilot initiative as a live operation.

“We receive regular reports of deer poaching from the South Wales farming community and members of the public who are naturally concerned by the extent to which these people are prepared to go.”

Within hours of the road blocks being set up, officers received a call from a farmer whose land bordered the forest reporting rifle shots followed by the noise of a 4x4 vehicle racing away.

A police helicopter joined a search of the area but the suspects could not be located. Nevertheless, the farmer was reassured by the level of response to the incident.

“This incident enabled the operation to test and put into practice a response to a call being received during the operation,” said Sgt Scourfield.

“Even though no person or vehicle was identified or stopped, the method adopted proved to be effective and measured.”

The crackdown followed the recent launch of a new strategy for managing the growing number of deer in the woodlands of Wales by the Welsh Assembly Government.

The operation was assisted by the Rural and Forestry Team (RAFT), made up of local police in Neath Port Talbot and the fire service who work together to investigate a range of countryside crime such as forest fires and fly-tipping.

Sgt Scourfield added, “We sent out a clear message to would-be poachers that we take this seriously and have the capability of executing high profile operations.

“The overall response from the community was very positive and, from an operational perspective, this approach proved successful and will be used again in deer poaching operations in the future.”


A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.

Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

Operation Antler is an initiative to tackle deer poaching and its association with illegal firearms used in the forests and countryside e.g. armed trespass, possession of firearms in public places, possession of firearms without the relevant certificates etc.

For more information on Operation Antler – or if you have information on illegal activity in Welsh Government forests – contact Andrew Scourfield, FC Wales Forest Crime Officer, on 0300 068 0229, mobile 07867 940246.

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email