Royston farmer’s hare coursing fears

A hare from the Flickr account of Levon Levonian

A hare from the Flickr account of Levon Levonian - Credit: Archant

A farmer has been threatened by hare coursers who come on to his land every week to partake in the illegal sport.

The farmer, who is based near Royston but asked not to be named, revealed that fields on his farm are being regularly targeted by coursers.

He said: “The problem is getting worse and every weekend we’re either seeing people out on the fields, or finding evidence that they’ve been there, with tyre tracks and footprints.

“I’ve been here for 28 years and this is the worst it’s been.

“My staff and I are scared to challenge them now because you just get threatened.

“They say they know where you live or that they’re going to knock you down and you won’t be getting up again.

“Previously we’ve thought it was gangs of people coming from outside the area, but now we think it’s a regular group of coursers who live in Royston.”

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Hare coursing sees two dogs, often lurchers or greyhounds, chasing a hare, with the winner being the animal that catches and kills the hare first.

A traditional hunting technique, coursing has been outlawed as a sport in the UK since 2005, and anyone caught and prosecuted can be fined up to £5,000.

The farmer added that the recent spate of coursing had an impact on the local hare population.

He said: “There are definitely less hares around now, and we keep seeing the bodies everywhere which isn’t very nice.

“We used to have Pc Paul Marina, who was an expert on hare coursers and knew a lot of tricks to catch them. But since he retired the police haven’t been so good at keeping them at bay.”

A spokesman for Hertfordshire police said officers had seen a small rise in reported incidents of hare coursing this year.

Royston’s neighbourhood sergeant Jon Vine said: “We are aware that it is a concern to local farmers and land-owners, and how this criminal activity can cause considerable damage to property and crops.

“It is common for reports of hare coursing to increase in the weeks and months after harvest, when standing crops have been removed from many fields.

“We respond to every report of hare coursing and will deploy all resources, including the police helicopter, that are available at the time.

“We also have a number of tactics we use to tackle criminals, including new quad bikes that allow us to travel quickly across open land, and the rural intelligence gathering system, which allows farmers and land owners to communicate with each other and police.

“However we do rely on the vigilance of members of the public in order to catch the perpetrators and we would ask anyone who suspects they are witnessing a crime to contact police immediately by calling 999.

“Members of the public should look out for signs such as a number of cars parked at an entrance point to a field and the presence of dogs. Hare coursers often drive in convoy between locations as well.”

*Have you been affected by hare coursing? Email or call 07785 616246.