CONCERNS have been raised over an increase in hunting by gangs in south Warwickshire.
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe says the issue of hare coursing has been brought up numerous times at community liaison events across the county.
Coursing is an illegal sport using dogs – traditionally greyhounds – to hunt and kill animals. Hares are the most common prey, but badgers and deers can fall victim to the chase too. Dogs used are often injured – and sometimes killed – in the process.
It is believed the hunts are being arranged by organised criminal gangs, who travel across the country to film the chases.
They then offer punters odds on which dog will get the first ‘kill’ and have reportedly held illegal backroom screenings of the chases.
Luke Ryder, Warwickshire advisor for the National Farmers Union (NFU), told the Observer: “As well as the illegal killing of wildlife, coursers cause damage to crops and property, and are often prepared to use violence and threats against farmers if challenged.
“The remoteness of some rural locations adds to the intimidation that some farmers and landowners can feel when faced with coursers on their land.”
Coursing traditionally takes place from September to March because the shorter crops make it easier for dogs to hunt prey.
But Mr Seccombe, who became the Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner in May 2016, has urged the public to be vigilant all year round.
He said: “Rural communities can play their part by alerting us to any suspicious activity, such as vehicles parked in a rural areas, or by gateways to farmland, on grass verges, or on farm tracks or bridleways.
“I have supported the training of six wildlife crime officers to ensure there is specialist advice and support to investigate and bring offenders to justice.”
“Coursing is illegal and unwelcome in Warwickshire and will not be tolerated.”
Anyone with information can call 101 and speak to police.