Saffron Walden sees big increase in hare coursing

PUBLISHED: 09:43 11 September 2009 | UPDATED: 21:54 31 May 2010

HARE coursing - a banned bloodsport which causes extensive damage to farmland - is on the increase around Saffron Walden. Gamekeeper for the Audley End Estate, Geoff Garrod, said: Hare coursing was made illegal after the hunting ban in 2004 and that seem

HARE coursing - a banned bloodsport which causes extensive damage to farmland - is on the increase around Saffron Walden.

Gamekeeper for the Audley End Estate, Geoff Garrod, said: "Hare coursing was made illegal after the hunting ban in 2004 and that seemed to put an end to it, but in the last two or three years it has raised its ugly head again."

The hare coursing season started after the harvest, when the corn in the fields was cut and the dogs were able to see the hares to chase them. Mr Garrod, who looks after almost 2000 acres, said he had seen a noticeable increase in the illegal activity this year.

"The coursers seem to be employing new tactics to avoid getting caught," said Mr Garrod. "Whereas they use to hide their vehicles before coursing the hare they now let the dogs out and drive after them.

"They have complete disregard for the farmland and the winter crops which have just been planted. And they are wiping out the young hares which mean there will be even less breeding next year."

Fields around Littlebury and Great Chesterford have been particularly vulnerable to hare coursing and police have had great difficulty catching the offenders.

PC Dawn Bamford from Saffron Walden Police Station responded to a report in Littlebury last Saturday. She said: "We could see the vehicle in the field but by the time we had driven to the farm track so we could get to them, they were gone."

Last year six men were charged with hare coursing in Littlebury and faced large fines as well as having their dogs confiscated. However people are still regularly flouting the law.

"On the estate it's happening about twice a week," said Mr Garrod. "Sometimes they leave the hares on the side of track or where we will find them, just to let us know they are still there."

Mr Garrod believes in some cases the hares are being coursed to give the dogs a taste of blood before tackling the bigger game of a deer.

"We have come across the odd deer guts and severed head which has all the hallmarks of poachers," he said.

Police are urging anybody who sees hare coursing taking place to report it immediately and if possible take details of vehicle number plates. Saffron Walden Police Station can be contacted on 0300 333 4444.

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