Isle is a hare-coursing hot spot for travelling gangs

Gangs of men with dogs are targeting the Isle from as far away as Cumbria, to go hare-coursing across private land.

Police are stepping up operations in a bid to track and nab offenders, who cause thousands of pounds of damage to farmers’ crops and property, and steal farming property.

Isle of Axholme police officer Dean Southam said: “We do take this activity very seriously and will get the police helicopter out to track these gangs when necessary. If they know they have been seen they tend to move their activity elsewhere, then reappear in the Isle at a later date.

“We have a very good network of farmers and landowners who communicate with us and each other. And we can assure people that any information we are given will be acted on immediately.”

Hot spots for hare-coursing include land between High and Low Burnham, around Westwoodside, Epworth and Beltoft, and from Eastoft up to Goole.

Gangs typically walk in lines, about 10 metres apart, then let their dogs off to chase a hare and work in threes to film the action, Films will then be played later and betting will take place in pubs. It’s a big money activity, the Bells was told.

“There are laws related to daylight and night-time poaching, and to hunting with dogs,” said PC Southam.”Anyone who sees suspicious activity should call 101 and report it immediately.

“We have had great success in tracking down these kind of offenders throughout Lincolnshire, and further operations are planned in the near future, including in the Isle.

“Hare-coursing is a persistent problem that we won’t tolerate.”

The so-called sport is a growing issue nationally, say campaigners. An RSPCA spokesman said: “With regards to incidents of hare-coursing or poaching with dogs - we would urge anyone with information to contact the police in the first instance, who have the powers to deal with these kinds of incidents.

“There has, historically, been a number of cases in the Isle of Axholme and North Lincolnshire area.

“A special unit has now been set up to try to control the problem.”

Offenders have been prosecuted over the past year and have been fined heavily, along with having their vehicles disqualified.

The Hunting Act 2004 means that anyone found guilty of hare coursing is liable on conviction to a fine of up to £5,000.

Anyone with information about illegal hare coursing should contact Humberside Police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.