POLICE are investigating "severe damage" caused to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Denbighshire.

Off-road vehicles have been driven illegally along a footpath near Glyndyfrdwy, causing serious damage on the blanket bog that surrounds the top of the Moel Fferna peak.

The area is home to some of Wales’ rarest plants and birds including cloudberry, merlin and hen harriers.

MORE NEWS: Police issue statement amid youths ‘making life a misery’ in Denbighshire villages

Rural Crime Team PC Chris James said: “Illegal off-roading at protected sites is an issue the rural crime team and partners are taking very seriously.

“We have been working with officers from Natural Resources Wales to assess the damage to the site near Glyndyfrdwy, and as a result of illegal off-roading, the area is gradually being eroded, causing increased runoff into the Dee tributaries, which will increase flood events as well as leaching carbon into the atmosphere.

“The area is part of the Berwyn SPA (Special Protected Area) for Schedule 1 birds and this habitat needs to remain intact for the birds to successfully rear chicks."

He added: “Off-roading in this area is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and it will not be tolerated. We are asking anyone who sees any activity, or anyone with information about off-road bikes in the area, to contact us direct on 101, or via the website.

“I would also urge those who use off-road bikes to check way markers and maps to verify the category of any track or path.”

Further police patrols will be taking place in the area as part of the recently launched Operation Dales that sees Rural Crime Team officers targeting off-road bikes being ridden illegally anti-socially in rural areas of Wrexham, Denbighshire and Flintshire.

It follows a number of complaints made by local residents of bikes causing noise, disruption and damage to areas of outstanding natural beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).