DUNCAN, B.C. - Thieves on Vancouver Island have taken the tails off a group of horses, prompting a plea from police to watch for anyone selling horse hair.

The thieves targeted a Duncan, B.C., property for the second time in a year, RCMP said Monday.

Cpl. Krista Hobday said a horse owner entered her barn Jan. 12 to discover someone had sheared the hair from the tails of five horses.

She said two horses at the same property had tail hair cut off last March.

Police haven't determined a motive for the most-recent theft, but Hobday said horse hair is used in crafts, ceremonial masks and paint brushes.

"We're wanting the public to kind of keep an eye out for anybody who seems to have horse hair around or is making masks or is in the business because even though it may not be them, they may know who it is," she said.

"It's probably a smaller community that would deal in horse hair."

Hobday said the theft will affect the horses' well-being because the animals use their tails to fend off insects, and whoever is responsible could face mischief charges.

Three similar incidents occurred in Prince George, B.C., in 2012.

In two of those cases someone rubbed a caustic paste into the animals hair and one of the horses suffered burns to its skin.

In the third case, somebody sheared the tail hair from a horse that was stabled at the Prince George Agriplex.

Lea-Ann Oosterhoff, the owner of all three horses in Prince George, said at the time that she believed her animals were being targeted.

She said vandalized tails hurt the horses' chances in the show ring and deprive them of a key method of keeping flies and other pests away.

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