Farmers are being urged to remain vigilant for hare coursers after a spate of incidents in the north of Scotland.
Police Scotland is urging farmers and people living in rural areas to keep an eye out for hare coursers and report any incidents following a number of reports of the illegal activity across Moray and Aberdeenshire.
“Despite hare coursing being illegal, a number of individuals continue to be involved in this barbaric activity with no thought to the suffering of the hare or any livestock nearby,” said Police Scotland’s north-east crime reduction officer, PC Richard Russell.
He said hare coursing, which is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, is most prevalent on stubble ground between August and April and it tends to involve Lurcher and Greyhound-type dogs.
“Those involved are often involved in other criminality and whilst involved in this activity can often cause damage to crops, fences and gates by vehicles gaining entry to the fields,” added PC Russell.
“Not only is the activity illegal but being on the fields in vehicles can mean various road traffic offences can also occur, potentially resulting in vehicles being seized, and dogs off a lead can also have a devastating impact on livestock nearby.”
He said Police Scotland received almost 235 reports of hare coursing across Scotland last year, and in February this year three men were charged in relation to two incidents of hare coursing in the Pitmedden area of Aberdeenshire.
“Farmers and people living in rural areas have a vital role in helping us gather intelligence and stopping illegal hare coursing,” added PC Russell.
“I would ask them to contact Police at the time and provide, where possible, the exact location of the hare coursing activity, a description of the dogs used and activities observed, and the make, model and registration number of the vehicles involved.”
He advised against confronting the hare coursers but encouraged those who witness the crime to take video footage if it is safe to do so.
Police Scotland’s wildlife crime officer, PC Hannah Haywood, backed this plea and said any reports would be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly investigated.
A Moray farmer who witnessed hare coursing on his land last summer has encouraged people to report anything they see.
The farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the incidents occurred in fields containing 30 yearling heifers and adjacent to fields housing in-calf heifers.
He said: “The dogs were not purposefully chasing the livestock, however the activity caused the cattle to get extremely agitated and worked up. Following this behaviour, the cattle have grown up to be very nervous and anxious around humans and dogs.”
The farmer said the hare coursers also left several dead hares rotting within grass fields – some of which were destined for silage.
He added: “The Police encouraged us to take video footage of the activity in action, and not approach them. Changes need to happen to put an end to this behaviour.”
Anyone who witnesses hare coursing or other suspicious activity is asked to contact Police Scotland on 999 or 101, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.