TATTON Park’s deer are to be given around the clock protection in a bid to stop thieves from poaching them.

In an attempt to reduce the number of deer suspected of being poached from its deer park, Tatton Park has announced it will be working with Knutsford’s Rural Neighbourhood Policing Team.

During last autumn and winter, Tatton Park predicted that more than 50 deer were taken illegally from its herd.

Police have pointed out that stealing deer is not only a criminal offence and subject to prosecution but it also has a huge impact on the herd’s welfare, with many poachers often selling the deer to rogue butchers.

Red and fallow deer were introduced to the Tatton estate in 1290 by Royal charter and have been roaming freely since.

The two herds combined are made up of more than 500 deer and for many visitors to Tatton Park, seeing the deer in their natural habitat, is a highlight of their visit.

Poaching – often using dogs – increases the stress levels of deer and as a result, Tatton Park rangers have revealed the dynamics of the herds change which affects their natural breeding patterns.

The Tatton Park initiative has been set up by PC Jim Day who has recently joined the team at Knutsford Police Station.

He told the Guardian that the new measures will include increased controlling of the park in partnership with Tatton Park rangers.

“We understand the impact rural crime has on local businesses and the community,” he added.

“Poaching is one of many aspects of rural crime which we are continually working to prevent. Working with Tatton Park we hope to get the message across that rural Cheshire is not an easy target for criminals.”

Phil Lucas, park manager at Tatton Park, added: “We are very proud of our beautiful , high quality deer and their welfare is our concern. Whoever is doing this has no regard for them.

“They are thinking only of the meat which they hope to sell for a few pounds.

“I think that this operation with Cheshire Police, together with the support of the public, can put an end to this callous illegal activity and safeguard our deer herds for the future.”

The operation began on Thursday, December 20 and will continue until March 1, 2013 running from 8pm to 6am each night/morning.

Any sightings of people acting suspiciously in the area of Tatton during the hours of darkness are asked to call Cheshire police on 101.