Warning: this article includes images some readers may find disturbing

THE numbers of deer being slaughtered for 'fun' as part of a disturbing illegal bloodsport are increasing in Dorset, police say.

Nine dead deer - with dog bites, their insides removed and throats cuts - were recently discovered at two Purbeck locations.

Dorset Police, who describe the attacks as "cruel", have launched an investigation and want the public's help to bring the poachers before the courts. They've also taken the unusual step of releasing an image of the slaughtered animals.

Seven deer carcasses were discovered at the bottom of Randall's Hill, near Lytchett Minster, and another two were found dumped at the Slough Lane bridle path near Frenches Farm, Upton.

Police Sergeant Jane Mooney, of Purbeck's Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: "These cruel wildlife attacks appear to have been carried out for 'fun' as there are no signs of butchering."

Officers are now increasing patrols in rural areas.

Dorset Police's wildlife coordinator Inspector Steve Marsh said: "We have noticed an increase in this kind of wildlife crime in our rural areas.

"Deer are being slaughtered by dogs as part of an illegal sport of poached for their meat."

In the past the Echo has reported on organised deer hunting gangs operating in Purbeck. Participants in the illegal bloodsport have been known to hunt with dogs and quad bikes.

PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organisation, says a recent British survey of deer hunting revealed 11 per cent of deer killed by hunters died only after being shot two or more times. The same study also suggested some wounded deer suffered for more than 15 minutes before dying.

The carcasses of the nine deer found in Purbeck were discovered by members of the public during the last week of April.

Inspector Marsh said: "I would like to reassure the public that, together with partner agencies, we are taking these crimes extremely seriously and will prosecute offenders accordingly.

"We currently have robust patrols in targeted areas and can only ask that the public remain vigilant to such crimes and come forward with any information."

Meanwhile, Sergeant Mooney is also eager to speak to anyone with information.

She added: "I would also like to appeal to local walkers and dog owners who might be out and about in rural areas to keep their eyes and ears open and report any suspicious behaviour.

"All calls will be treated in the strictest of confidence."

Email police at warehamnorthSNT@dorset.pnn.police.uk or contact them via 101. If you witness a suspected wildlife crime in action call 999 immediately and ask for the police.