POLICE are urging farmers and the rural community in Moray to be vigilant, as they anticipate an increase in hare coursing and associated rural crime during the autumn months.
As part of Operation ‘Lepus’ the Grampian Police Wildlife Crime Unit will be undertaking targeted patrols in known hare coursing areas in an effort to apprehend offenders.
Hare coursing involves people accessing land with dogs with the intention of hunting for brown hares. Upon sighting a hare the dog or dogs are released in pursuit with the coursers often placing bets to see which dog will catch and kill the hare.
Hare coursing was banned in Scotland in 2002 under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, which also makes it an offence for anyone to permit hare coursing on their land.
Andy Turner, Wildlife Crime Education Officer, said: "Poaching, typically hare coursing and the illegal taking of deer and freshwater fish, is a national wildlife crime priority.
"Although the animals involved are not rare, they can suffer a cruel death at the hands of the poachers. The days of poachers taking "one for the pot" are gone and many modern poachers are part of organised criminal gangs.
"The remote locations where much of this criminal activity takes place inevitably means that most incidents are reported by members of the public who are out and about. Hare coursers are frequently involved in other types of rural crime and for this reason should never be confronted ."
PC Kev Marron, a crime reduction officer with Grampian Police, added: "There is growing evidence of a link between wildlife crime like hare coursing and other types of crime occurring in rural areas such as theft of farm machinery, fuel and equipment.
"There are some simple measures that residents in our rural communities can take which reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of crime. From alarming buildings from as little as £4 and installing CCTV for under £100 to immobilising plant machinery and keeping scrap and machinery secure".