Police tackle hare coursing and poachers in Uttlesford
The seasonal problem of hare coursing is prevalent throughout Uttlesford, but police have reassured rural communities in the district that they are tackling the issue.
And following disturbing reports of animal carcasses being found in wooded areas, poachers are also the ones now being hunted.
PC Steve Sharma, of Uttlesford's community policing team, said that those taking part in illegal hare coursing – the pursuit of hares with greyhounds, which chase their prey by sight, not by scent – usually came from outside the district to use its flat landscapes, which are ideal terrain for hunting.
Speaking out of Stansted's Mountfitchet Exchange community hub, where village officers now have a base, he said: "They tend to come from further afield in Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Cambridgeshire as we have plenty of open spaces here, so we try to make it less inviting for them.
"Cambridgeshire had a purge on hare coursing last year so they move somewhere where there's less opportunity to be caught. But we're now having a purge on it and have a lot more resources, including our rural crime team, to target hare coursing."
Police have developed a strong working relationship with farmers throughout Uttlesford who are quick to report suspicious activity and help officers keep track of suspects on their land, providing 'live' information rather than tackling the offenders themselves.
PC Sharma added: "Certain vehicles are known to us, so if one is caught on camera we know there's a hare coursing vehicle in the area. But it requires a huge response. Even with nine police vehicles attached to one incident, Uttlesford is huge and we're usually playing the chasing game."
Success rates for catching the culprits were, however, quite high, he added. "For example, we know they use the emergency exits onto the M11 at Newport, so we sit there and wait for them and they've been caught quite a few times there. We're quite successful at catching these people."
In other wildlife crime news, reports of disembodied animals hanging from hedgerows have prompted an outcry on Uttlesford social media sites over the past few weeks. PC Sharma admitted that the problem did seem "quite prevalent at the moment".
"The bits being left are from poachers who hang the animals up to drain them, then skin them and take the meat, leaving the carcass behind, which is what people are finding. It can be quite disturbing," he said.
"We had one reported last night [Sunday January 12] in Little Canfield, but this is where all these remains are coming from and it can be quite a sight."
Anyone who suspects hare coursers are in the area should call police on 101.