Police have launched a new drive against hare coursers – warning anyone involved in the illegal blood-sport that their vehicles could be seized and crushed.
Suffolk Constabulary said offenders were travelling to the county from across the country to hunt hares with dogs. Thousands of pounds are known to change hands betting on which dog will chase, catch and kill a hare.
Reports of hare coursing have increased in recent years – although 139 incidents were reported in Suffolk for the six months to 31 March 2020, while there have been little more than 80 incidents for the same period this year.
It is illegal to hunt wild mammals with dogs – and anyone convicted of hare-coursing can be fined up to £5,000 by a magistrates’ court. Legislation also gives police the powers to seize and detain vehicles until the court hearing.
More than 20 police forces have joined together under the banner of Operation Galileo to share information about hare coursers planning to trespass on farmland.
Sergeant Brian Calver, from the Suffolk Rural Crime and Wildlife Team, said offenders were often responsible for damaging crops, property – threatening people who tried to prevent or report hare-coursing.
“Hare coursing is a huge issue for farmers and landowners with many people living in fear of these criminals. This illegal activity damages property, threatens people’s incomes and subjects people to fear and intimidation.
“Many of those are very unpleasant with violent and unscrupulous backgrounds, many of whom have links to organised criminality. Significant sums of money can change hands in the form of illegal betting and gambling on the outcome.
“The crushed car in the photo – while not used in a hare coursing incident – does aim to demonstrate the consequences if you are caught and convicted of hare-coursing, so let this be a warning to those who commit this crime.”
Members of the public who witness hare coursing are advised not to approach the participants but to phone police immediately on 999.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said the county was particularly vulnerable to hare-coursers due to its brown hare population. He added: “This despicable behaviour will not be tolerated.”