Restaurants are being warned about poached game after reports animals are being killed illegally in the countryside.

Sussex Police said it has stepped up patrols after reports of lights and loud noises coming from woods in rural Rother Game dealers, restaurateurs, hotels and pubs are now being put on alert not to buy poached game.

PCSO Daryl Holter, Rother Wildlife Crime Officer, said meat from illegally killed animals is a “real risk” to public health.

He said deer shot at night using high-powered weapons is an “obvious risk to public safety.”

He said: “There is also concern for the animals not being killed in a clinical and professional manner as many are killed with weapons not suitable for the size of the animal.

“Commercial poaching is a serious problem on various levels and is not a faceless crime.”

If caught poachers can be prosecuted under the Deer Act 1991 as well as for firearm offences.

He said retailers can avoid buying poached game by not purchasing meat from anyone they do not know and report immediately any suspicious gatherings in car parks around vans or 4x4s.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Sussex Police on 0845 6070999 or through the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.