Police declare war on illegal blood sports

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The ancient sport of hare coursing – outlawed in Scotland for a decade – is making a comeback in the region.

And last week a plea went out for Borderers to help the police bring to justice the perpetrators of this and other illegal country pursuits which inflict cruelty on wild animals.

“The more intelligence we get, the more we can do,” said PC Jamie Hood, Police Scotland’s recently-appointed wildlife liaison officer for the Borders and the Lothians.

The coursing of hares and rabbits by greyhounds and lurchers is just one of a range of proscribed blood sports being targeted by PC Hood and his colleagues.

He told Friday’s meeting of the Police, Fire and Rescue and Safer Communities Board in Newtown how the pattern of local wildlife crime was changing. In an area dominated by the Tweed catchment, only one person had been reported for illegally taking salmon in the last six months.

PC Hood said the focus of police activity was switching to combating pursuits which could be linked to a downturn in the economy.

“The running down of hares and even deer often involves betting and the selling on of meat to unscrupulous dealers. By the time we get there, all that is left is a gutted carcass.”

Noting that a man in Pathhead had been charged last month for allegedly being involved in hare coursing, board chairman Councillor Donald Moffat said he had anecdotal evidence that the sport was becoming commonplace in Berwickshire.

“I know of three farmers around the Swinton area – and I will pass their names to the police – who have come upon hare coursing on their land and have been aggressively threatened by the organisers, in this case from the north of England,” said Mr Moffat.

“This is nothing less than organised crime,” added the councillor.

And he claimed the baiting of badgers with dogs was also on the increase.

“The unprecedented number of badgers we see lying at our roadsides are certainly not all road kill. Many have clearly been attacked by dogs and dragged there to conceal this disgusting activity.”

PC Hood said anyone who had suspicions about badger deaths should contact the police.

While stressing the impact of wildlife crime on gamekeepers and landowners, PC Hood said the killing of protected raptors to protect sporting interests in the Borders was also being targeted.