OFFICERS from Gloucestershire Police's Rural Crime Team are investigating a report of animal hunting which took place near Birdlip on yesterday evening (Thursday).

Police were called to reports of hare coursing and the shooting of pheasants in Elkstone, near Birdlip, shortly after 9.15pm.

Officers attended and located two vehicles believed to be connected to the incident.

Five men were spoken to and will now be interviewed under caution as part of ongoing enquiries.

A number of animals, catapults and other hunting paraphernalia were seized under the Poaching Prevention Act as part of the investigation.

PC Ash Weller from the Rural Crime Team said: "The team have been encountering a substantial increase in hunting incidents during the current lockdown where local farmers and game keepers have reported finding large quantities of pheasants being shot with catapults.

"The killing of game birds under these circumstances is an offence under the 1862 Poaching Prevention Act and we have directed our rural crime patrols to the areas where the reported offences were most prominent in a bid to catch those taking part.

"With assistance from our colleagues in the Specialist Operations teams we were able to locate five men and their vehicles last night before finding catapults, ball bearings and numerous dead pheasants inside.

"An investigation is now underway and we will be speaking to the gamekeeper who reported this before voluntarily interviewing the men and potentially summonsing them to court should the evidence allow."

The men were issued with Coronavirus tickets as new regulations which came into effect last Thursday (5 November) mean that no person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without a reasonable excuse.