Police are hunting for camouflage-wearing poachers after swans disappeared and ducks were found dead.
Three men in camouflage gear and balaclavas have been spotted lurking on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent looking for birds to kill.
When they were challenged by concerned local residents, they turned aggressive. Soon afterwards the ducks were found dead and swans went missing StokeonTrentLive reports.
Officers are appealing to track down the suspected poachers who have local Stoke accents and were armed with a catapult on Tuesday morning. They released photos of the suspects.
Warning residents to be on their guard, one woman said: "There is a group of males with hunting dogs who have been seen around the village (Barlaston) and at Meaford Locks.
"I saw them walking off the fields by the Methodist church and saw them again at the canal by the Plume of Feathers pub.
"One male had a catapult and was pointing it at the canal where the ducks were.
"They have a hunting dog, an ash-coloured whippet, and a black terrier. I've seen them with other people and more dogs."
She went on: "They were in camo clothing and balaclavas. Recently we have found ducks dead with holes in their heads."
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Another villager added: "There are young men in their 20s. I saw them with a grey lurcher and they were followed by a man on a pushbike. I believe the cyclist is following them and retrieving the dead ducks.
"They are also trespassing on private land.
"I confronted them and I was subjected to verbal abuse. It's very shameful behaviour."
A Fulford Parish Council spokesman said: "We have had a huge amount of problems of this nature and description in our parish, some extremely disturbing and graphic."
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Police carried out a search of the area on Tuesday but were unable to locate the suspects.
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: "We were called at 9.30am on Tuesday to reports of three men acting suspiciously near to the canal at Meaford.
"Three white men wearing camouflage clothing and balaclavas were seen. One had a whippet and another was riding a bike.
"Officers attended the area but the men were not located."
Anyone with information should message Staffordshire Police on Facebook or Twitter quoting incident number 150 of February 2 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
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