POLICE are investigating after a deer's head was dumped beside a foodbank at a Hampshire church.

The head of a sika deer was left in the porch at St Michael's Church, Lyndhurst, in what the Rev David Potterton has described as a "savage, callous and disgusting act".

Police and Forestry England were alerted after the grisly discovery was made on Tuesday.

Writing on social media Mr Potterton said: "Alarmingly, someone has left the severed head of a deer in the porch - a very distressing find for the person who discovered it.

"It is also upsetting given the fact that children and older people visit the porch each day to leave or collect food."

The British Deer Society described the incident as "very shocking".

A spokesman said: "Regrettably it is not uncommon for members of the public to encounter deer remains dumped indiscriminately by poachers in the countryside, but it is difficult to understand why anyone should choose to leave a deer’s head in the porch of a church."

Forestry England said the remains were removed by one of its keepers.

Several people have taken to social media to voice their shock and disgust at the incident, which one person described as "absolutely sickening".

Hampshire Constabulary was alerted at 1.25pm on Tuesday, when it received reports that a deer's head had been left at a foodbank at the church.

It comes three months after dead animals were dumped outside a house on the Calmore estate at Totton, sparking a police investigation.

The remains of rabbits and a deer were left at a property in an incident described as “shocking” by neighbours.

They said the animals had been shot, adding that the people living in the house had no idea why they had been targeted.

In January last year a headless deer was found beside the A338 near Blashford Lakes, Ringwood. Police said the deer had gunshot wounds to its legs and body and its head had been removed.

Officers appealed for information about poaching in the area.

Anyone with information about the Lyndhurst incident can contact police on 101, quoting reference number 44210170223.

Alternatively, they can call the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111, where messages can be left anonymously.