Gangs of 'lampers' use spotlights to distract animals and kill them

Deer coursing and poaching remains a problem in Suffolk Picture: BEN BIRCHALL/PA ARCHIVE/PA IMAGES

Gangs are targeting deer, foxes and badgers in illicit lamping - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Gangs of "lampers", who shine bright lights to distract animals and then kill them, are travelling from miles around to ply their "disgusting" trade in Suffolk.

That is the warning from Sgt Brian Calver, from Suffolk police's rural crime team, who said the groups breed dogs specifically to attack the animals whilst they are transfixed.

Lamping, as it is known, is legal when done by farmers and landowners as a means of controlling rabbits or foxes - whilst adhering to a strict code of conduct.

But Sgt Calver said gangs are travelling from as far away as Yorkshire and Wales to engage illicitly in the "sick sport", which normally starts in mid-September. 

"Lamping itself is a completely lawful activity which is generally used by gamekeepers and pest controllers to keep numbers of rabbits and foxes down," he said. 

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"Lawful lampers will often use red filters to highlight the eyes and it's a light that can't seen by the animal.

"But the sort of people we're talking about use high-powered lamps that are wired into vehicles and they will light up the field. 

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"What the majority of them are doing is setting dogs on them.

"We're getting gangs coming down from Yorkshire and Wales and they're targeting badgers, foxes and deer.

"They'll drive around the field looking for their target and then release the dogs on them. 

"They are breeding dogs specifically for it. They are breeding bull terriers with lurchers so you end up with a really powerful dog, built for speed and power. 

"It's basically their sick sport, which is just disgusting beyond belief."

Sgt Brian Calver of the Rural and Wildlfe Crime Team Picture: SARAH CHAMBERS

Sgt Brian Calver urged lawful lampers to check in with police ahead of time - Credit: Archant

Sgt Calver said the intelligence picture in the county is growing and he urged lawful lampers to be sure to let police know where they are going to be. 

"Some people will see the lamp going across the field and assume it's a lawful pest controller," he said. 

"So the key message is for those who are engaged in lawful pest control to call in and report it online or 101, just so we know that there's someone lawful in the area. 

"Because these people will stand out, just like the hare courses do, they're in 4x4's and they'll be driving around, the lamps will be flickering across the fields. 

"It's their night out of fun. There's no evidence to suggest there's any gambling involved, it is just their sick pleasure. The deaths that the animals suffer is just barbaric.

"The last few years we've seen an increase in this activity but that's allowed to develop our intelligence. That has allowed us to have some success. 

"You've got a whole host of offences, you've got poaching by night, offences under the Deer Act, under the Animal Welfare Act, so if we can catch them, it's not hard to pin something on them."

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