FARMERS and estate workers in Caithness are being urged to work with police to track down those responsible for the “barbaric” killing of two protected animals in the county.

An investigation is underway into the deaths of a pine marten and a badger in separate incidents a few days ago. The pine marten had to be put down after being found entangled in a rogue trap in rough ground between Watten and Mybster.

Around the same time, a dead badger was found with a snare round its neck on the main A99 coastal road at Clyth, north of Lybster.

Both species are protected under separate legislation which carry penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of up to £5,000.

Northern Constabulary’s Wick-based wildlife crime officer Constable Cailean Macleod said: “Wildlife crimes don’t tend to have many, or indeed, any eyewitnesses, but I’m pretty sure somebody somewhere will know something about these incidents and we do rely heavily on people in the community coming forward with information.

“I’d appeal to farmers, gamekeepers and other estate workers to provide any information they have as I’m sure they would stand with us and see this sort of thing as barbaric and something which will not be tolerated here.”

Constable Macleod said both investigations are at an early stage, though a number of lines of inquiry are being pursued. “Fortunately, offences like this in our area are rare, but it is very concerning to find two animals killed by two very distinct illegal means around the same time. It seems clear that they were not killed by the same person.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Constable Macleod on 01955 603551 or pass on information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 500 111.