PETS and wildlife are being killed and maimed in air gun attacks.
A spate of attacks have occurred on animals throughout the region – some with deadly consequences.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) dealt with 197 calls regarding air gun incidents on animals last year.
But concerned RSPCA staff say the figure is only a snapshot of what is really happening.
Regional superintendent David Millard said: “Mindless air gun attacks on pets and wildlife is a serious and worsening problem.
“Our figures only provide a snapshot of this issue as many more animals are suffering needless pain and death than we are aware of.
“Air pellet entry wounds are especially difficult to detect by the untrained eye and, sadly, not all incidents are reported to us or witnessed.”
The RSPCA said that rarely a week goes by without them receiving a call about an animal that has been deliberately targeted in a sickening attack.
Many are left for dead or fighting for their lives, while others remain seriously injured.
The most common targets are cats, wild birds and water birds, although wild mammals and dogs are also regularly killed or injured by air guns.
Last year the RSPCA received 197 calls in the northern region about animals being injured by an air gun.
Seventy-six calls were about injured cats, while 55 calls concerned birds that had been shot.
The animal charity also says that 21 dogs were injured.
RSPCA officers now hope to halt the abuse.
Mr Millard added: “We are now appealing to the public to help prevent unnecessary suffering to countless animals by reporting any witnessed incidents to us or the police.
“We can then do everything in our power to prosecute the individuals responsible which may, in turn, deter any others.
“Also, we would like to remind people that the law has changed and it is now illegal for anyone under 18-years-old to have an air gun in their possession without supervision.
“We’re appealing to parents not to buy their child an air gun unless they are prepared and willing to supervise them at all times.”
Anyone found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal could face a maximum six-month prison sentence, as well as a fine of up to £20,000.