Deer are being illegally killed by yobs with rifles whose dangerous behaviour is putting people in danger.
Police have launched off-road patrols to protect wildlife after finding deer skin from shot animals at district beauty spots.
PC Brian Easter, wildlife officer for the district, hopes to deter illegal hunters with the police prescence, and has urged people with information about the inhumane activities to come forward.
On Monday he teamed up with off-road bikers to patrol land around Stanley Ferry.
PC Easter said: “We have had reports of deer skin being found.
“People are killing them somehow, we think by shooting, which is dangerous in itself.
“I’m guessing people probably think it is a sport as much as anything else.
“I don’t think it’s to feed their kids, that’s for sure.”
PC Easter said deer are protected by laws which restrict the times and places they can be hunted – and warned that people with guns were potential comitting firearms offences.
He said: “You are only allowed to shoot deer at certain times of the year and in certain places.
“There are places you can go in Scotland at certain times of the year where the deer population needs managing.
“But these people are just shooting them for fun.
“This puts members of the public in danger and there are potential firearms offences because it needs to be a bullet rifle. You can’t use air weapons.”
Police had also received reports of other wildlife being targeted.
PC Easter said: “We had reports of someone shooting otters.
“We’ve also had reports of badger baiting on social media and these people seem to see themselves as a bit macho.
“It’s a problem for people who like wildlife and who live in these areas and it’s something that police are trying to put a stop to.
“If people think they are going to get caught then that stops them.
“We really want to stop people going out and doing this in the first place.
“We want people to be aware that it is worth contacting us and we will pick up on it and were are taking it very seriously.”
Anyone with information about illegal hunting should contact the police by calling 101.