Police will use all powers including seizing vehicles to try to deter illegal hare coursing across the county as a landowners’ organisation warns now is the time for a rise in the crime.
CLA East fears there will be an increase in of hare coursing across Cambridgeshire as farmers and landowners as land is cleared of crops during the harvest Levels of hare coursing can increase significantly after harvest when it is easier to travel across fields.
Coursers take advantage of the wide open spaces, trespassing on private land in order to set their dogs on to hares – often betting thousands of pounds on the resulting chase.
CLA East, which represents hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Cambridgeshire, has even heard reports of hare coursing being streamed live on mobile phones with people watching the stream online.
CLA East regional director Ben Underwood said: “Every year following harvest we see increased incidents of hare coursing and I fear it will be the same again this year. Hare coursing is an abhorrent crime that many of our members have either been victims of, or live in fear of. Coursers often use threatening and intimidating behaviour, and in some cases violence, if they are approached which is wholly unacceptable.
“Many coursers travel long distances from other parts of the country to take part in this illegal activity, due in part to the large hare population in our region. Not only does the crime raise concerns in rural communities but it damages crops, property and has a devastating impact on the local hare population.
“We urge the police to use the full powers at their disposal to punish anyone caught in the act of hare coursing. This is the only way that a marker can be put down that this rural crime will not be tolerated.”
One CLA member in the region had a family member assaulted recently when he encountered a group of hare coursers on his farm.
He said: “As soon as we have used the combine harvesters to clear our land we have groups of hare coursers arriving and taking part in this illegal activity. We live in fear of being targeted as we know how vicious the people that take part in hare coursing can be. We’ve got the scars to show for it.
“We have blocked gates and dug ditches around our fields to try to deter the hare coursers but we’re still being targeted on a daily basis. Those taking part in this activity are completely lawless and it is having a devastating impact on us personally and on the brown hare population in our region.”
Cambridgeshire Police Chief Inspector James Sutherland said: “Hare coursing is totally unacceptable and Cambridgeshire Constabulary is committed to maintaining a dedicated Rural Crime Action Team to help combat it.
“Furthermore, we will use every power in our arsenal, including new anti-social behaviour laws, to attack this form of criminality which is a scourge to landowners, rural workers, wildlife and the wider rural community.”
Cambridgeshire Police also strongly urges members of the public not to directly confront hare coursers.