As farmers prepare to harvest their fields, police are warning any would-be hare coursers that they will not tolerate this cruel bloodsport.

Hare coursing involves the pursuit of a hare with a greyhound or other form of sight hound and was banned in 2005.

Sgt Jamie Bartlett leads Herts police’s Rural Operational Support Team – which is targeting anyone carrying out the sport.

He said: “Not only do illegal coursers and poachers trespass on private land, damage crops and property, but they also often steal property and can be abusive and intimidating to those who challenge them.

“There is also the matter of animal cruelty, frequent illegal gambling, driving stolen vehicles and using red diesel.”

Those involved in the sport often travel long distances to meet in rural areas within Hertfordshire to carry out the sport.

Illegal gambling is usually at the heart of any event and in some parts of the country thousands of pounds have been recovered from offenders taking part.

During the pursuit, damage can be caused to fences, gates and hedges by offenders trying to gain entry onto fields and then additional damage is often caused by vehicles driving on the land over any remaining crops. The hare is usually killed if it is caught by the dog.

Anyone caught hare coursing could face a fine of up to £5000, disqualification from driving and imprisonment.

Sgt Bartlett’s team of police officers are specialised in rural, wildlife, environmental, heritage crime, equine and traveller liaison issues. As well as hare coursing they investigate crimes such as badger baiting, nighthawking and the theft of metal from historical buildings.

Anyone who has information about hare coursing should call 101 and 999 is they witness happening.