Hare coursing – an illegal form of hunting when dogs are used to chase down and kill hares on flat land – has kicked off in the county, with farmers reporting a spike in incidents on their land after crops were cleared during harvest.
Violence, threats, links to organised crime and damage to gates, crops, soil and wildlife habitats are all part and parcel of the cruel activity, which is often filmed live for betting purposes.
One anonymous Lincolnshire farmer said: “We have been hit again today by a hare coursing gang. They have done untold damage to crops again. It’s every day.
“I thought I was in trouble when three men surrounded me, but thankfully I live to see another day. These are not pleasant guys.
“There is constant damage to our livelihoods, along with mental and physical abuse.
“The situation is completely out of control and these people are seemingly beyond the law. And they know it.”
The public can help put a stop to hare coursing by reporting it as it is happening, ensuring that they are safe to do so.
There are some telltale signs of hare coursing to look out for, according to Crimestoppers and the NFU:
- Groups of vehicles parked in a rural area, perhaps near a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, on a farm track or bridle path. This is often the most obvious sign
- A cluster of estate cars, four-wheel drives or vans with evidence of dogs inside
- Vehicles travelling in convoy, with vans at the front and rear containing minders
- A gathering of people using binoculars to spot hares
- Coursers walking along the edge of a field to frighten a hare into the open
- Dogs, generally sighthounds (greyhounds etc.) and lurchers, running in a field, often with a vehicle shadowing them so the chase can be filmed
NFU county adviser for south Lincolnshire, Johanna Musson, said: “Farmers are filled with profound dread at this time of year because they know what’s coming.
“They have been attacked time and again – one was even hospitalised after being assaulted earlier this year - by a hardened group of criminals hell-bent on carrying on committing this horrifying offending.
“We really need the public, particularly those walking pets and exercising in the countryside at dawn or dusk, to spot the signs of hare coursing and call 999 if it is taking place or report it to 101/ police website if it has happened - and only if it is safe to do so.”