Brown hares are being illegally chased and killed using dogs on farmland around Chichester.
That is according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), who are urging residents to report sightings of hare coursers to the police.
A group is also said to be deer coursing locally, which often leaves the animal with severe injuries, resulting in a slow and painful death.
West Sussex NFU adviser James Osman said: “We would like people to be aware that there are illegal hare coursers operating in the county, particularly around Chichester.
“These groups are trespassing on farmland, often arriving by vehicle and then illegally using lurcher dogs to chase and kill brown hares.
“There is also another group thought to be involved in deer coursing.
“Sussex Police is aware of these gangs – it is just a case of local residents providing evidence to help them prosecute these criminals.”
Residents who spot suspicious activity in the countryside should report vehicle details, including registration numbers, if possible, to Sussex Police by calling 101 or via 999 if they see a crime occurring.
The NFU has issued affected farmers with signs that warn coursers of the penalties.
Sergeant Tom Carter, Sussex Police operational lead for wildlife, heritage and environmental crime, said: “Hare coursing is a form of hunting which was made illegal with the Hunting Act 2004.
“While it may have once have been seen as a traditional countryside activity hunting hares for the pot, it is now almost entirely related to illegal gambling around the performance of the dogs and the hares that have met a stressful death are often just discarded in hedges and ditches.
“A worrying development that we have become aware of is for larger dogs now to be used for deer coursing with bulldogs being crossed with lurchers to produce a speedy, but much more muscular dog - the bull lurcher.
“Incredibly, deer are sometimes chased with vehicles and the dogs are thrown out while still moving to pursue an animal that has been isolated from the herd.”
The NFU said it is common in deer coursing for the deer not to be killed by the dogs but to be left with severe injuries, resulting in a slow painful death.
The penalty for hare and deer coursing is an unlimited fine and offenders also face having their vehicles and animals confiscated and can be disqualified from driving.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1) Make our website your homepage at www.chichester.co.uk/
2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ChichesterObserver
3) Follow us on Twitter @Chiobserver
4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
The Chichester Observer - always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.