FARMLAND in Pickmere is being targeted for hare coursing, say police.

Officers are warning landowners to be on their guard following five incidents in the past month.

The controversial blood sport pits dogs against each other to hunt down wild hares.

It was banned in the UK in February 2005, at the same time as fox-hunting, but animal rights campaigners say that it still regularly occurs.

“It’s evil and horrible and why anyone would want to do it beggars belief,” said animal rights campaigner Nicky Brooks, of Yew Tree Farm, in Whatcroft.

“The victim is the animal and in this day and age in the 21st century it’s so primitive.”

The latest incident occurred at 10.30pm on Sunday, August 15, when a landowner forced a man off his field in Pickmere. The man had a springer spaniel and two greyhounds.

PCSO Andy Dolan, of Knutsford Rural Watch, which covers Pickmere, said: “The man said he was merely exercising his dogs. But he was on the farmland without permission and it’s an area well known for brown hares.

“To be on there with two greyhounds and a springer spaniel suggests the type of activity he was up to.”

PCSO Dolan told the Guardian that the culprits usually targeted secluded fields in rural areas between 10pm and midnight to limit the chance of being caught.

He added: “They shine powerful torches into fields to catch the eyes of hares and once they spot a good area they go on the land, regardless of who it belongs to.

“Luckily, the landowners have reported this before it’s gone too far but this can be very distressing as seeing dead hares isn’t the nicest thing.”

Nicky said: “If I see strange activity around the farm I go out and check what’s going on. “These animals aren’t taken to eat. It’s for fun and to test the obedience, agility and speed of the dogs. I just want to talk to these people – I want to understand why they want to do it.”

Hare coursing advocates say the ‘sport’ assists in the conservation of hare populations. The Government has also promised a Parliamentary motion to reverse the ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales.

Knutsford police say they want to speak to a man who was driving a dark green and silver Mitsubishi four-cab pick-up.

If you have any information call 0845 458 0000.