GRAMPIAN Police have warned those involved in illegal hare coursing that they will be cracking down on the blood sport over the coming months.
Officers from the force will be participating in Operation Lepus, which will hare coursing hotspots in the north-east targeted by officers with a view to identifying and prosecuting those involved.
Hare coursing involves pursuing brown hares with dogs, with spectators gambling over which dog will catch the hare first. The activity has been illegal since 2002, when the Scottish Parliament passed the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act.
The illegal activity typically takes place in autumn, when the harvest has been taken in, or in the early spring before crops have a chance to grow. This gives hunting dogs room to pursue their quarry.
Police have said that while hare coursing will be a particular target, they will be cracking down on all forms of poaching in the countryside, alleging that much poaching is linked with other rural crimes including theft of equipment and metal.
Andy Turner, Wildlife Crime Education Officer, said: “Poaching, typically hare coursing and the illegal taking of deer and freshwater fish, is a national wildlife crime priority.
“Although the animals involved are not rare, they can suffer a cruel death at the hands of the poachers. The days of poachers taking “one for the pot” are gone and many modern poachers are part of organised criminal gangs.
“The remote locations where much of this criminal activity takes place inevitably means that most incidents are reported by members of the public who are out and about. Hare coursers are frequently involved in other types of rural crime and for this reason should never be confronted.”
PC Kev Marron, Crime Reduction Officer with Grampian Police, added: “There is growing evidence of a link between wildlife crime like hare coursing and other types of crime occurring in rural areas such as theft of farm machinery, fuel and equipment.
“There are some simple measures that residents in our rural communities can take which reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime. From alarming buildings from as little as £4 and installing CCTV for under £100, to immobilising plant machinery and keeping scrap and machinery secure.
“We would encourage people to contact us and we can send them simple yet detailed cost effective and realistic advice and we are happy to attend and do a crime reduction survey, give advice in person or presentations to groups.
“Whether it be wildlife or other crimes occurring in rural areas it is important that incidents are reported promptly, using the non-emergency 0845 600 5 700 number. The provision of as much detail as possible in relation to location, description of individuals, vehicles involved and direction of travel, assists police officers to respond to each incident in the most effective manner possible.”