ILLEGAL poaching and hare coursing on the Mendip Hills has resulted in "extensive criminal damage to local farmland".

Police say recently seeded crop fields have been churned up, fencing damaged and gates smashed down.

Officers in the area are mounting extra patrols in a bid to catch the culprits and stamp out the crimes.

A spokesperson for Mendip Neighbourhood Policing team said: "Over the past several weeks, the Mendips have fallen victim to reports of poaching and hare coursing, resulting in extensive criminal damage to local farmland.

"Offenders have churned up freshly seeded crop fields, damaged fencing and have on several occasions have even rammed and broken gates.

"These acts of cruelty towards our wildlife and damage caused to the land will not be tolerated.

"Officers from various stations have increased patrols in the affected areas, as well as working closely with key landowners, local intelligence officers and the Rural Affairs Unit."

Police are appealing to anyone who sees anything suspicious or has information that could assist with their investigations to report it via the Avon and Somerset Police website or by calling 101 or 999 depending on the required emergency response.