POACHERS operating in woods in Merseyside were today accused of threatening passers-by who challenge them.
Gangs with dogs are said to be causing criminal damage and targeting livestock as well as rare wildlife around Rainford.
Police today urged the public to report any incidents, saying the ?romantic image? of traditional poachers has been replaced by hardened criminals.
They want to eradicate what they described as ?medieval activity?, saying it now attracts violent thugs.
Paul Culley, who manages the Mossborough shoot, encountered a group of three men with dogs on Sunday February 1.
They cut an electric fence and ignored his request for them to leave. A second gang appeared later but left when he approached them.
Mr Culley, who has held the post for eight years, has seen similar gangs threaten people.
He said: ?In November last year, a woman who lives on the estate disturbed a gang passing her home. They threatened to loot her home, burn it down and rape her. I arrived on the scene and witnessed it.
?I have also come across men armed with high-powered air rifles.?
PC Duncan Thomas, wildlife officer with Lancashire police, said: ?The romantic image of the ?one for the pot poacher? who was feeding a family at home is now dead.
?We are talking about gangs of rural criminals who also steal diesel and livestock. The brown hare, which is a ribbon stamp of conservation, is one of their targets.
?The type of people committing these offences are predisposed towards violence and threats, and some of them are involved with serious offences.
?I am urging members of the rural community to report incidents. We have recently experienced a number of successful prosecutions against them.
?I want to stamp out this medieval activity. If an incident is not reported, it does not exist.?
Routine incidents should be reported to the police on 08451 253545. If threats are made, victims should call 999.