Two suspected treasure hunters have been charged in connection with illegal prospecting at a protected Highland Perthshire beauty spot.
The men, aged 53 and 71, were allegedly panning for gold on the Moness Burn at the Birks of Aberfeldy when police officers were alerted around 10am on Thursday.
The pair were charged under the Nature Conservation Act after they were discovered in the area which is designated as a Site of Special Interest (SSSI) by NatureScot, formally Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
The legislation is designed to protect the flora, fauna and geology in protected and historic places where it is illegal to search for gold without a licence.
A NatureScot spokesperson said: “The Birks of Aberfeldy is a Site of Special Scientific Interest SSSI and also includes part of the River Tay Special Area of Conservation which is designated for salmon, otter and lamprey.
“Any unauthorised works or removal of material could damage the natural features of the site, which would constitute an offence.
“The removal of material for commercial purposes without landowner permission is common law theft.”
Tayside Police said treasure hunters could run into difficulties if they went travelling in the Scottish countryside without knowing the laws in place.
A spokesperson said: “There are over 1,400 SSSIs in Scotland, and it’s actually quite easy to find yourself in one of these areas without knowing it.
“If you’re planning on some outdoor activity, particularly if you’re visiting a place that you’re unfamiliar with, it’s well worth checking if you’re going to an SSSI, and being aware of what you can and can’t do so that you don’t find yourself in loads of bother.”
Last April, police officers chased away alleged prospectors amid reports that a small team of gold panhandlers had visited the beauty spot at least twice around that time.
Historically gold and silver were mined in the area as far back as 1680 and one of the biggest gold nuggets ever found in the UK was discovered near Aberfeldy, weighing in at just under 22g.
About 20 years ago, scores of treasure hunters from as far afield as Wales and Cornwell descended on a half-mile stretch of river near Aberfeldy, putting rare flowers at risk.
The mini-gold rush was thought to have been triggered by a rumour spread at an international prospecting competition some months earlier.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Officers were made aware of two men prospecting on the Moness Burn at Birks of Aberfeldy around 10am on Thursday September 17.
“Officers attended and two men, aged 53 and 71, were charged in connection and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”