SHEEP rustlers have stolen more than 40 animals in two separate incidents in North Devon. In the first incident, 25 lambs were stolen from a farmer s field in Loxhore between Thursday, August 5 and Friday, 6 August. The lambs, worth around £1,750, were ar

SHEEP rustlers have stolen more than 40 animals in two separate incidents in North Devon.

In the first incident, 25 lambs were stolen from a farmer's field in Loxhore between Thursday, August 5 and Friday, 6 August. The lambs, worth around £1,750, were around five months old and had blue dot identifying marks on their shoulders.

Between Friday, August 27 and Saturday, August 28, 17 sheep were taken from a field in Bishops Tawton. The livestock were around one year old and had orange identifying marks on their heads and possibly an orange "v" shaped mark on their bodies. They were worth around £1,020.

Police are appealing for any witnesses to the thefts to come forward and also urged the public to be on the lookout for lambs or sheep which have been recently moved into previously empty fields.

PC Glyn Clark, neighbourhood beat manager for Bishops Tawton, said: "It is possible that a large vehicle such as a lorry or trailer may have been used and we would urge the public to report any vehicles seen in rural or agricultural areas which seem out of place or with occupants acting in an unusual manner.

"It is believed that these stolen animals will be slaughtered so farmers and registered and approved delivery drivers of livestock should be aware of any unusual unrecognised people trading in the local area or of any suspicious stock being sold at markets."

South West based insurance firm Cornish Mutual said it had dealt with a number of cases linked to animal thefts this year, including similar incidents near Chulmleigh and Chawleigh.

A spokesperson for the firm said the high-price of lamb could lead to an increase in the number of insurance claims for sheep rustling and that final payouts could run into thousands of pounds.

"It could be that the high-price of lamb is having an impact on the recent spate of sheep rustling claims," said spokesperson Alan Goddard.

"We have only started to get claims for sheep rustling in the last six months or so. A ewe going for mutton can fetch around £100 these days and store lambs can go for around £60, which is a lot for sheep."

Anyone with information regarding these thefts is asked to contact the Police quoting reference CB/10/3063 or CB/10/3180.