POLICE have praised residents whose vigilance helped them seize a 4x4 vehicle suspected of being involved in poaching.

North Yorkshire Police said at 11am on Friday November 22 Rural Watch volunteers contacted them about a group of men with dogs walking across farmland near Bedale.

Officers from the force's Rural Taskforce and local Neighbourhood Policing Team carried out a search of the area, and found a silver Nissan X-Trail vehicle.

When challenged, the occupants claimed they had opened the boot of the vehicle and their dogs had run off.

However, the car was untaxed, and so was seized by police. Officers say it may now be sold or scrapped within 14 days if the owner does not tax it and pay a release fee to the force.

The incident comes after North Yorkshire Police warned poachers earlier in the year that illegal behaviour would not be tolerated across the county.

They have been urging residents to note down and report any suspicious activity, such as unusual vehicle movements, particularly in remote, rural areas and off roads.

A spokesperson said: "Even if the information doesn’t lead to an immediate response every piece of intelligence helps the police build up a picture and could prove vital in bringing criminals to justice.

"Because North Yorkshire has large, isolated areas of farmland, forestry and lakes the area tends to be vulnerable to poaching activity. In addition to being a wildlife crime, illegal poaching on farmland, which involves the illegal taking, killing, injuring or pursuit of game, deer or fish, can cause significant damage to young crops, resulting in large financial losses for farmers."

In the autumn they say there is particular concern over an increase in poaching because crops have been harvested and fields are often left empty and open and are more easily accessible.