Police have hare coursers in their sights

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Police have started a new crackdown on the illegal ‘sport’ of hare coursing.

The sweep, named Operation Lepus, is a Scotland-wide effort to stamp out the cruel practise where hares are chased by dogs and ripped apart.

Police say that hare coursing is a wildlife crime priority and and offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Officers will be taking part in targeted patrols in known hare coursing areas in an effort to apprehend the coursers.

It is predominantly a seasonal crime, occurring during the spring as crops emerge into fields and during late summer and early autumn when the crops have been harvested.

Because hares, which are commonly seen around Milngavie and Bearsden, have no burrows they rely on their colouration and vegetation for protection.

Therefore, they are more vulnerable to hunting at this time of the year as crops have been cut.

A spokesman for Operation Lepus said: “Hare coursing is committed by a small number of individuals, who travel far and wide to indulge in this illegal activity. “The persons involved in this antisocial activity will use lurchers, greyhounds and whippets which hunt by sight and are normally walked across fields on slip leads and are released when any hares run off. It has been known for multiple dogs to chase one hare and money to change hands depending on which dog kills the hare.

“Research has shown that the type of person who takes part in this type of activity is often linked to other types of criminality.

“Typically, they will also be involved in other types of wildlife crime and are amongst the most prolific offenders in respect of wildlife crime.

For those offenders, this type of crime is usually a ‘status symbol’, and can run from generation to generation.”

Where coursing has been witnessed, officers will take action on the information from a single eye witness and can seize the dogs and any vehicles concerned. Similarly, reports to police, and even historical reports made, can identify areas of hare coursing to police which can be investigated.