Four men have been charged in connection with a hare-coursing incident in Moray.
Three of the suspects, aged 49, 42, and 15, are from Aberdeen, while the fourth is a 43-year-old from Inverness.
Last night the chief superintendent of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Mike Flynn said it was an “abhorrent” activity.
The men, who were arrested near Forres on Sunday night, were targeted as part of an ongoing initiative by Grampian Police called Operation Lepus.
They have now been released from custody and are expected to appear at Elgin Sheriff Court.
The force’s wildlife crime officer, Constable David MacKinnon, said hare coursing was a big issue.
He said: “The Moray division of the force has had a significant hare-coursing problem in recent times with the Peterhead, Ellon and the Mearns areas of Aberdeenshire.
“Operation Lepus, the ongoing initiative within the force, has been running since 2007 in an attempt to combat the crime. The operation aims to raise the profile of the crime within the force and encourage members of the public to report ongoing incidents. The support of the public to date has been very encouraging.”
Hunting hares became illegal under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002.
Penalties under the act include six months behind bars and fines of up to £10,000. Anyone convicted of an offence also risks having their vehicles and dogs forfeited.
Yesterday the Scottish SPCA’s Mr Flynn said: “Blood sports such as deer and hare coursing are abhorrent activities that have no place in modern society.
“Landowners should always report anyone acting suspiciously on their land to the police. There has been an increase in reports of this sort of activity in recent years and we would encourage people to continue to be vigilant.”
Anyone who witnesses hare coursing activity is asked to call police on 0845 600 5700.