Crackdown on hare coursing in Welwyn Hatfield

BARBARIC bloodsport hare coursing has been dealt a blow this year thanks to better training and cooperation between police forces.

With the hare coursing ‘season’ about a third of the way through, Hertfordshire Constabulary’s wildlife crime officer Sgt Jamie Bartlett has hailed the decline in the practice in Welwyn Hatfield, which was a threat to the once-common and-now-threatened brown hare.

He said officers had learned from experienced colleagues in Cambridgeshire, which is the UK’s hare coursing hub, thanks largely to the county’s wide open flat expanses.

The combined effort to tackle the menace also involves other forces including Essex and Bedfordshire.

Sgt Bartlett said last year saw an increase in cases in and around Welwyn Hatfield because illegal gamblers who bet on the bloody outcome of the ‘sport’ had been driven out of their usual haunts by concerted police efforts.

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But this year, despite “a few glitches around Ayot St Lawrence”, officers were halting the spread of the bloodsport and incidents were “significantly lower”.

Sgt Bartlett put the breakthrough down to training sessions in wildlife crime at police HQ in Stanborough Road, WGC.

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He told the WHT: “We’ve had instances in Ayot St Lawrence and more rural areas around Hatfield.

“It used to be mainly in north and east Herts because the flat geography lends itself to dogs chasing hares, but because of operations in those areas, hare coursers have moved to more central areas in smaller fields.

“They gamble on which dog will turn the hare and which one will catch and kill the hare.”

He added: “They’ve come to places like WGC, Hatfield and Potters Bar where we have fields where the brown hare is present.”

Hare coursing was outlawed in 2004 and it is a criminal offence even to attend an event.

And Sgt Bartlett said hare coursing was often linked to other crimes like trespassing, intimidation and threats to landowners and damage to crops.

He said that hare courses often spot where valuables such as diesel and quad bikes are stored and return later to steal them, and urged the public to report wildlife offences “like any other crime”.

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