Plea over rise in illegal hare coursing

Police have issued warnings about hare coursing. Picture: Alan Milligan

Police have issued warnings about hare coursing. Picture: Alan Milligan

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Police have warned the public to be on the lookout after a spike in illegal hare coursing on Lothians farmland.

Police say the often seasonal activity is now happening year-round in East Lothian and Midlothian.

Fresh warnings about the offence - which involves dogs being set on hares - have been issued after a 54-year-old man was arrested for hare coursing near Pathhead last month. He will appear in court on a later date.

Police Scotland said the “ongoing problem” had a major impact on wildlife, and on those who work on the land the hares live on, including gamekeepers and farmers.

PC Jamie Hood, wildlife liaison officer for the Lothians and Scottish Borders, said: “Hare coursing is a crime that has no consideration for wildlife or the impact on people who legitimately make a living from the land.”

He said the issue was a particular problem in the Midlothian and East Lothian areas because of the geography.

“It used to be a seasonal thing but we are finding it is more year round now,” he said. “It was particularly after the crops had been taken out and we had stubble fields that they would do it but now it’s all the time.”

Organised groups of hare coursers, many of whom are believed to take part in other poaching activities, have been known to boast about their kills on social media.

And police officers fear that some people are travelling from the city to take part in the inhumane “sport”.

PC Hood said the criminals involved in hare coursing were often linked to other crimes - particularly thefts - and are often aggressive and abusive to farmers and gamekeepers.

He said: “They also cause damage to properties, for example taking down fences and opening gates.”

PC Hood said the rise in poaching could be linked to the downturn in the economy, as offenders often place bets and attempt to sell meat to “unscrupulous” restaurants and butchers.

He added: “There is a misunderstanding that hares and rabbits are ‘fair game’ but ultimately you are talking about killing an animal and making them suffer. Some people are just doing it for their own entertainment.”

Anyone with information about hare coursing or other types of poaching should contact Police Scotland immediately on 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.