Rural group calls for tougher stance as landowners brace for surge in hare coursing crime

Hare coursing has soared in Cambridgeshire in recent years

Hare coursing has soared in Cambridgeshire in recent years - Credit: Archant

An organisation which represents rural businesses and landowners says it fears there will be an increase in illegal hare coursing across Cambridgeshire as farmers begin clearing their land of standing crops during this year’s harvest.

These two dogs were abandoned between Earith and Haddenham when officers from the police's Rural Cri

These two dogs were abandoned between Earith and Haddenham when officers from the police's Rural Crime Action Team attended an incident of hare coursing. - Credit: Archant

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

CLA East, which represents hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Cambridgeshire, says levels of illegal hare coursing can increase significantly after harvest when large areas of arable land are cleared, making it easier to travel across fields.

Coursers take advantage of the open spaces, trespassing on private land in order to set their dogs on to hares.

On August 5, police were called to two separate incidents of hare coursing in Huntingdonshire, one in Papworth St Agnes and a second in Hilton. Reports of damage to farm gates and a tractor were recorded.

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.

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“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.”

The CLA recommends that any suspicious activity in the countryside should be reported to the police on 101, but people should not be reticent about calling 999 if they suspect a crime is actually taking place.

Chief Inspector James Sutherland, of Cambridgeshire police, 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.