A UNIQUE operation to help combat poaching in the area has proved successful in its first week.

In the only partnership of its kind in the country, a private aircraft owner is working with local police officers to detect illegal poachers.

Pilot Bill Tiplady flies over key areas known to have suffered from poaching activity, using hi-tech camera equipment to gain evidence while liaising with officers on the ground to direct them towards offenders.

Over the team’s first weekend two men were arrested and charged with poaching with dogs after an incident on land off Welham Road in Norton.

The pair are alleged to have been using dogs to hunt hares.

Sgt Steve Pearse, of the Ryedale Safer Neighbourhood Team, said Operation Leverette was aimed at dealing positively with unlawful poaching activity across the area.

“Contrary to the popular myth that poachers are of the ‘Claude Greengrass’ of Heartbeat-type of person, the reality is that this is a very real problem,” he said.

“Offenders are travelling into the area for both daytime and night time poaching, trespassing on land and flouting legislation, hunting with dogs and on occasion using firearms.”

The operation is being headed by Sgt Paul Stephenson with PC Andy Grant, who has been instrumental in its development.

They will work alongside special constables and volunteer members from Country Watch schemes to arrange directed patrols throughout the area to deter poaching and to apprehend and prosecute anyone found breaking the law.

Sgt Pearse added: “I would like to thank Mr Tiplady and the other volunteers for their support.

“This is a great example of partnership working at local level to tackle what has historically been a problem in the Ryedale area.”

Operation Leverette will be run over the next few months.

Anyone with any information that may support the operation should phone the Ryedale Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team on 0845 6060247.