North East Farmers are speaking out against the effects that Hare Coursing is having on their business and their livestock.
Figures from the RSPCA show incidents of crime against wildlife almost doubled from April to June during the first lockdown, compared to the previous three months.
Fred Ryle is a cattle farmer in Northumberland, and says coursing has been particularly active this year. Often they bring other crime and even threaten his livestock.
While the regional branch of the Country Land and Business Association has been receiving widespread reports from across the North East.
Libby Bateman is the Northern Regional Director for The CLA:
Suspected hare poachers risk fines of £2,500 and having their dogs re-homed as officers tighten the net on Rural Crime.
What is Hare Coursing?
Hare coursing is the practice of using two dogs (usually greyhounds), to chase a hare. Hare coursing is illegal in Britain, and participating in, attending, or permitting hare coursing to take place on land was made illegal under the Hunting Act 2004.
Being chased is extremely stressful for the hare and if caught it will die. Anyone witnessing hare coursing taking place is advised not to approach the participants but to phone the police immediately on 101 - or 999 in an emergency.
It comes as rural officers served the Force’s first two Community Protection Warning Notices (CPNW) for suspected hare poaching. A 29-year-old from North Tyneside and a 31-year-old male from Northumberland were served the notices.
The two men had been reported to officers a total of seventeen times in just three months after both being spotted acting suspiciously on private Northumberland farmland with their dogs.
Officers warned the men they risk being handed further Community Protection Notices, and could be hit with £2,500 fines - and even risk having their vehicles and animals seized if they fail to follow the conditions set out in their CPNWs.
Requirements include keeping their dogs away from private land and only driving or parking on private land if they have obtained written permission from the owner first.
Sergeant Ian Pattison from the Rural Crime Team said: “We have been working closely with our rural community to encourage them to report any suspicious behaviour. We see them as our eyes and ears and they have been in touch frequently over the last few months to report our CPNW recipients.
“Both men are suspected hare coursers and poachers, who have regularly been seen on private farmland with dogs, without permission and causing residents great concern. They have become a thorn in the side of rural policing in Northumberland and it’s fitting that they are the first two to be served a CPNW in relation to suspected hare coursing.
“This action shows that we will listen to our rural community and act when appropriate”
Discussing how the public can assist, Sgt Pattison added: “Hare coursing and Poaching is illegal and accepted as having clear links to Rural Crime.
“It is really important that the police are called if you see anything suspicious. The most obvious sign is a group of vehicles parked in a rural area - by a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, farm track or bridle path.
“Other useful information is descriptions of suspects, including how many and any accents, as this will help determine the areas the suspects maybe travelling from.
“Try and recall anything said and write it down as soon as possible, as well as what they’re wearing and if they have any dogs with them.
“What we also find really useful is vehicle information, so things like direction of travel, registrations as well as the make and model of the vehicle and any noticeable damage to it.
“Please do not approach these individuals and simply report and record what is seen.”
Poaching is no longer just taking one for the pot, but is the use of dogs to indiscriminately kill wildlife, often for betting purposes as well as on occasions damaging fields and fences with vehicles.
Anyone who sees anything suspicious or has any information about Rural Crime is asked to contact police via 101 or can do so by submitting the online tell us something form. If a crime is in progress ring 999 . You can also do this anonymously via crimestoppers on 0800 555111.