Three men are to stand trial accused of hare coursing on “repeated occasions” at an Angus farm.
Mark Stewart, Raymond Higgins and Colin Stewart appeared at Forfar Sheriff Court facing charges of hunting brown hares with dogs near Kirriemuir.
All three co-accused denied the animal offences at Ladywell Farm, formerly known as Wester Logie Farm, on a number of dates this year.
Prosecutors allege that the men from Aberdeen travelled “far and wide” across Scotland to hunt the mammals, and one has been remanded in custody to await trial.
Specialist wildlife fiscal Fiona Caldwell said the men originally appeared on a charge alleging a single offence on March 27, but the summary complaint had been widened to include “hare coursing over a period of time and on repeated occasions” at the farm.
Ms Caldwell opposed bail for Colin Stewart due to a history of analogous offending.
“The brown hare is a protected species under section 6 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act,” she said.
“Its peaks of activity tend to be in the spring and autumn, when the fields are bare.
“At this time of year they are particularly vulnerable to this time of offending.”
For Colin Stewart, solicitor Nick Markowski said: “I think a special condition preventing him from returning to the area might deal with the matter.
“This would protect any mammals at the locus.”
For Mark Stewart and Higgins, solicitors Robin Beattie and John Hall entered not guilty pleas.
Both men were bailed with the special condition that they do not dispose of or destroy any dogs involved in the case.
Visiting Sheriff MacDonald set the trial for June 28, with a pre-trial hearing on June 7, at which all men are ordained to appear.
Colin Stewart was denied bail due to previous convictions.
Colin Stewart, 31, Blackthorn Crescent; Mark Stewart, 26, Clinterty Caravan Park; and Raymond Higgins, 45, Summerhill Road all deny deliberately hunting brown hare with three dogs, Colin Stewart doing so while on bail.
Hunting wild mammals carries a maximum six-month maximum sentence under summary complaint.
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