Search is on for three little pigs
Three young pigs have hot-trottered it from woodland and sparked a major hunt by a wildlife trust.
The trio of saddleback sows, all aged around five months, did a runner from the area in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, where they were being used to graze the woodland.
Their escape follows in the hoof-steps of the Tamworth Two, a pair of siblings who dodged a date at a slaughterhouse in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in 1998.
Sundance, a Tamworth boar, escaped with his sister Butch and spent a week on the run before finally being recaptured and rehomed at a rare breeds farm in Kent where they lived out the remainder of their lives in peace.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT) officers are desperately searching for the newest escapees, who were part of a trial to see how effective grazing the woodland would be as a means of encouraging natural regeneration.
It represented a return to traditional methods for helping to improve the health of the wood for the benefit of birds and other wildlife, the wildlife officers said.
Phil Dykes, an LWT East Lancashire reserves officer, has turned detective to find the plucky porkers.
With help from volunteers and others within the trust, the search has been on to find clues as to their whereabouts.
He said: "Looking out for places where the ground has been dug up or finding pig dung has enabled us to work out which direction they headed from their enclosure.
"We have also spoken to local landowners and residents including a conversation with a horse rider who had had a problem with her horse suddenly stopping on the lane leading up from the village and refusing to move forward on a route that she did daily.
"She subsequently realised that it was probably the smell of pigs that the horse was reacting to when she found out later that day about the escape."
Mr Dykes believes the runaways could have covered some distance, but are likely to be in the area north west of Clitheroe leading towards Bashall Eaves and the village of Hurst Green.
He added: "The markings on the pigs are very distinctive, being basically black with a pink band around the centre of the body giving the appearance of a type of saddle, and hence their name.
"Any possible sightings would be good to hear about. We are happy to come out to make further investigations and can readily summons transport to return the pigs safely to their woodland home".
The Wildlife Trust said it is keen to see the return of the pigs as soon as possible and would welcome any reports that people may have of sightings or other evidence.
Mr Dykes can be contacted directly on 07841 996722.