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Farmers fear hare coursers set to descend on Norfolk and Cambridgeshire fields after harvest

PUBLISHED: 10:37 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 10 August 2017

Hare coursing, pictured before the sport was banned in 2004. Picture: John Hocknell

Hare coursing, pictured before the sport was banned in 2004. Picture: John Hocknell

Farmers’ leaders fear there will be an increase in hare coursing after the harvest.

A sign warning coursers can face fines of up to £5,000. Picture: Norfolk policeA sign warning coursers can face fines of up to £5,000. Picture: Norfolk police

Parts of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire have become blackspots for the illegal bloodsport in recent years.

Gangs travel to the region to set greyhounds and lurchers onto hares, with large sums of money often bet on which dog is best at hunting.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) East says levels of hare coursing increase significantly after harvest when large areas of arable land are cleared, making it easier for dogs to see their prey and chase it across fields.

Coursers take advantage of the wide open spaces, trespassing on private land.

A hare coursing operation in West Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk policeA hare coursing operation in West Norfolk. Picture: Norfolk police

CLA East, which represents around 1,000 farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Norfolk, has heard reports of hare coursing being streamed live on mobile phones.

Its 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.

“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.”

Coursers can also have their vehicles confiscated and crushed. Picture: Brian PurdyCoursers can also have their vehicles confiscated and crushed. Picture: Brian Purdy

One CLA member, who wishes to remain anonymous, had a family member assaulted recently when he encountered a group of hare coursers on his farm.

He said: “As soon as we have used the combine harvesters to clear our land we have groups of hare coursers arriving and taking part in this illegal activity. We live in fear of being targeted as we know how vicious the people that take part in hare coursing can be. We’ve got the scars to show for it.

“We have blocked gates and dug ditches around our fields to try to deter the hare coursers but we’re still being targeted on a daily basis. Those taking part in this activity are completely lawless and it is having a devastating on us personally and on the brown hare population in our region.”

The CLA says any suspicious activity in the countryside should be reported to police on 101, or 999 if a crime is actually taking place.

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