Hare coursing is a rural crime where dogs are used to chase, catch and kills hares, with those involved often betting large sums of money on the outcome.
Levels of hare coursing can increase significantly in Lincolnshire after harvest when large areas of arable land are cleared, making it easier to travel across fields.
Coursers take advantage of the wide open spaces, trespassing on private land in order to set their dogs on to hares – often betting thousands of pounds on the resulting chase.
CLA East, which represents more than a thousand farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Lincolnshire, has even heard reports of hare coursing being streamed live on mobile phones with people watching the stream online.
CLA East 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. Not only does the crime raise concerns in rural communities but it damages crops, property and has a detrimental impact on local wildlife.
“We urge the police to use the full powers at their disposal to punish anyone caught in the act of hare coursing. This is the only way that a marker can be put down that this rural crime will not be tolerated.”
Lincolnshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor said: “We continue to take incidents of hare coursing extremely seriously and as part of our Rural Community Safety Strategy we recognise the misery it causes to farmers.
“It isn’t right that this illegal activity causes damage to their livelihoods and if victims attempt to challenge offenders they are subjected to abuse, intimidation and threats of violence.
“Last year as part of our Operation Galileo, which is closely followed by neighbouring forces due to its success, over 250 offenders were dealt with by being arrested, ordered to leave the county or given a warning. We also seized around 40 vehicles and 31 dogs which is a huge deterrent as some can be worth thousands of pounds.
“This season we are looking to build on this and we have invested in new 4x4’s, quad bikes, a drone and night vision to boost our response and intelligence gathering.
“We are also improving the technology in our Automatic Number Plate Recognition Network (ANPR) so offenders can be more easily traced and a Rural Advisory Group has been created, which residents can be a part of, to help us engage with local communities.
“Information from farmers and the public remains at the heart of this.
“If you see people hare coursing, suspect they are about to or hear of a pre-organised event please report it to us by calling 101.
“In an emergency call 999 – please do not tackle these individuals.”