CLA EAST FEARS AN INCREASE IN HARE COURSING ACROSS SUFFOLK AS HARVEST MOVES INTO FULL SWING
CLA East fears there will be an increase in the illegal act of hare coursing across Suffolk as farmers and landowners begin clearing their land of standing crops during this year’s harvest.
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 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 around a thousand farmers, landowners and rural businesses in Suffolk, 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 devastating impact on the local hare population.
“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.
“We have regular contact with the police forces in the East of England and will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure each force invests sufficient resource to tackle hare coursing and other rural crimes.”
One CLA member in the eastern region, who wishes to remain anonymous, had a family member assaulted recently when he encountered a group of hare coursers on his farm.
“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 impact on us personally and on the brown hare population in our region.”
The CLA recommends that any suspicious activity in the countryside should be reported to the police on 101, but people should not be reticent about calling 999 if they suspect a crime is actually taking place.
Criminals, such as hare coursers, should not be tackled directly by members of the public, and calls to the police to report incidents of coursing should be made from a discrete location.
Inspector Nick Stonehouse from Suffolk Police said:
“Hare coursing is totally unacceptable and Suffolk Constabulary is committed to maintaining a dedicated rural crime unit to help combat it.
“We will be carrying out regular patrols to attack this form of criminality which is a scourge to landowners, rural workers, wildlife and the wider rural community. We urge all CLA members and everyone in the rural community to work with us to tackle this problem.
“Additional officers are receiving training around rural and wildlife crime matters and Suffolk Constabulary has recently formed a Rural Policing Team and hare coursing will be a priority offence for this team.”
Suffolk Police strongly urges members of the public not to directly confront hare coursers as this is likely provoke a violent confrontation.