A SECRET eye in the sky has been deployed over rural Dorset in a bid to catch poachers.

Dorset Police carried out drone patrols, with the aid of night vision technology, over large swathes of the county on Tuesday night.

Explaining the airborne patrols, a police spokesman said: "The drone was deployed to cover large areas of ground looking for poachers who may have been looking to take advantage of the clear conditions.

"As the nights get longer we often see a increase in poaching activity this time of year."

No poachers were caught, but a number of vehicles were stopped by officers on the ground during the rural crime team operation.

One happened to be a farmer driving home through his fields after work.

Other vehicles stopped were well capable of hauling stolen plant machinery and quad bikes, officers said.

The police spokesman said: "Likewise we have been working with the council and followed up on fly-tipping intelligence received from the public.

"Whilst we were patrolling a number of farms we did note a number of pieces of expensive farm machinery and quadbikes left vulnerable to theft.

"We will make follow ups to offer advice and help farms to put in effective crime prevention."

Last month police in the west of the county warned farmers and residents to be on alerts for poachers, after evidence of two suspected poaching incidents was uncovered.

Police have also been patrolling the banks of the River Frome following reports of fish poaching.

During the last lockdown certain areas of Dorset experienced a rise in number of poaching reports.

Anyone who witnesses poaching in progress is urged to not challenge the poachers themselves, instead call 999 straight away.