Farmers, landowners and members of the public are being urged to stay alert as we enter peak hare coursing season across the Thames Valley.

Hare coursing is when dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares, with gambling on the outcome common practice.

Incidents normally spike at this time of year, following harvest when areas of arable land are cleared of crops, making it easier to travel across fields.

The CLA South East, which represents landowners, is now urging the police to do everything possible to stop the sinister tactics, threats and intimidation used by hare coursers and arrest those caught in the act.

Members of the public are also being warned to call 999 if they see the crime taking place or report suspicious activity in the countryside to 101.

Acting Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “We traditionally see a spike in hare coursing incidents at this time of year, following harvest.

“We appreciate that police have a range of significant pressures in terms of resources and budgeting, but we want to ensure that tackling hare coursing remains a priority.

“This is not a minor crime. Those involved in hare coursing are hardened criminals – often using threats, intimidation and in some cases violence against anyone who questions or challenges their actions.

“These criminals don’t think twice about trespassing on land, damaging crops and property and give no consideration to the animal welfare of the hares involved.”

Criminals such as hare coursers and poachers should not be tackled directly by members of the public and calls to the police to report incidents of coursing should be made from a safe location.

When phoning the police, callers should be prepared to give an accurate description of what is happening. This could include descriptions of the people, their vehicles and dogs.