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Harvest leads to fears of increase in illegal hare coursing in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 11:18 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:18 10 August 2017

Suffolk has a large population of hares. Picture: FRANCES CRICKMORE

Suffolk has a large population of hares. Picture: FRANCES CRICKMORE

(c) copyright citizenside.com

Landowners have voiced fears of an upsurge in illegal hare coursing across Suffolk this month as farmers begin clearing their fields of standing crops during harvest.

Dogs chasing hares near Newmarket - the CLA says hare coursing can increase after harvest. Picture: MICHAEL HALL Dogs chasing hares near Newmarket - the CLA says hare coursing can increase after harvest. Picture: MICHAEL HALL

Hare coursing is a rural crime where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares, with those involved often betting large sums of money on the outcome.

CLA East, which represents owners of rural property, land and businesses, said levels of hare coursing can increase significantly after harvest when large areas of arable land are cleared, making it easier to travel across fields.

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 eastern region, who wished to remain anonymous, had a family member assaulted 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.”

Inspector Nick Stonehouse, from Suffolk police, said: “Hare coursing is totally unacceptable and Suffolk Constabulary is committed to maintaining a dedicated rural crime unit to help combat it.

“We will be carrying out regular patrols to attack this form of criminality which is a scourge to landowners, rural workers, wildlife and the wider rural community. Additional officers are receiving training around rural and wildlife crime matters and Suffolk Constabulary has recently formed a Rural Policing Team and hare coursing will be a priority offence for this team.”

Suffolk Police strongly urges members of the public not to directly confront hare coursers.

People should call 101 if they have information or 999 if they see a crime being committed.

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