Gangs are coursing west Suffolk deer with 'specially bred dogs', police warn
Gangs are illegally coursing deer and hare in West Suffolk with specially bred dogs, Suffolk Police have warned.
Sergeant Brian Calver, of the force’s rural crime team, said Suffolk is being targeted by criminals coming down from Yorkshire for poaching and sport.
“There has been an increase this year to the point where it is prolific,” he said.
“It is a constant battle. They are operating day and night. Deer and hares are dying such undignified deaths because of this activity that offenders are getting some kind of sick thrill from. These people will stop at nothing and get away with it.”
He said perpetrators often use large vehicles and bring dogs bred by crossing lurchers and bull terriers to create a hybrid that is strong and fast. Gangs will drive in pursuit of an animal and then release a dog within striking range. This can kill even large stags.
Animals are often beheaded and left to rot but officers are sometimes only uncovering the crime when a rotting animal body is found days after a kill.
“They will drive dangerously to get away and they are swapping cars all of the time,” said Sgt Calver, who added that getaway cars often do not have insurance.
“It is a closed community of individuals and we do not get any tip offs. Some residents are reluctant to come forward. We can count the number of deer we have found on one hand but we know this is the tip of the iceburg.
"We have seen pictures of up to seven deer in the back of cars from looking at coursers’ phones and WhatsApp groups. It is a hidden form of criminality.”
Sgt Calver could not disclose exactly where coursing is taking place, but said reports have been heard in St Edmundsbury and West Suffolk areas.
He said Suffolk’s rural profile has led to illegal coursing in various parts of the county, while forces in neighbouring Cambridgeshire and Norfolk have also had reports.
In Essex, officers were reportedly resisted by offenders firing catapults at police vehicles.
Sergeant Calver added: “These are lawless individuals with little to lose. They are even bringing children with them on hunts to introduce a new generation.
“They just keep going and keep going. It is underreported and we can only appeal for more reports to come in.”