A CAMPAIGN group is asking people to be more aware of the possible poisoning of animals in the countryside.

A spokesperson for the Campaign against Accidental or Illegal Poisoning (CAIP) said: “Many people who spend recreational time in the countryside occasionally come across dead animals but few know what to do if the cause of death appears suspicious.

“That is a key finding of new market research commissioned by the campaign which quizzed over 100 countryside users, ranging from ramblers and runners to conservationists and cyclists, on their awareness of the potential risk of wildlife poisoning.”

The research revealed that although countryside users come across dead animals, very few take any action.

However, more than half of those interviewed would report dead wildlife if they suspected suspicious or illegal activity. Deaths of birds of prey, deer or badgers are most likely to be reported.

More than 70% agree with the use of legal forms of pest and predator control but the research shows that more information is required to help understanding of both legal and illegal forms of control and how to recognise poisoning.

Those questioned said they are most likely to report a suspicious wildlife death to the RSPCA or the police but a third did not know who they should report their concerns to.

The spokesperson added: “Many animals die of natural causes or from road traffic collisions, although regrettably a few deaths are caused by misuse or abuse of pesticides.

“Despite people seeing animal carcases, 98% of countryside users do not take any action when they come across a dead wild animal and would rarely consider poisoning to be the cause of death.

“What is clear from our research is a need to improve knowledge across the board. The fact that only 2% of countryside users are aware the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) exists also means we need to improve awareness and understanding of this important scheme.

“If you suspect an animal has died because of pesticide poisoning, you can contact the WIIS freephone hotline on 0800 321 600, but remember it is only concerned with pesticide-related incidents.

“For most instances of suspected wildlife crime and suspicious wildlife death, the local police force’s Wildlife Crime officer is the principal contact.”

What to look out for: Dead animals cut open and staked out - these may be laced with poison.

Several dead birds or animals close together.

Animals which appear to have died without obvious reason or lying next to something that may have been eaten.

Eggs in unusual places, possibly with an ink mark.

Dead owls or birds of prey found away from roads.

Pet dogs falling very ill after a walk in the countryside.