A gang of hare coursers was caught in Angus after mobile phone messages and footage was recovered.
The three Aberdeenshire men had travelled to Brechin to take part in the illegal hunting.
They had been using dogs to hunt the wild animals in fields but the authorities were alerted when local people realised what they were doing.
Peter Anderson, Philip Starr and Phillip Wilson, all from Macduff, had previously pled guilty to wildlife offences at Forfar Sheriff Court and have now been sentenced.
Car followed and stopped
The court heard that on the afternoon of Sunday February 2, 2020 a local person spotted people with lurcher-type dogs on farmland near Balrownie, Brechin.
The farm owners were informed and they discovered a silver Ford car and noted the registration number.
Shortly afterwards, they saw men and dogs in one of the fields.
Two dogs were chasing a hare as one of the men was filming on a mobile phone.
The farmers phoned the police and when the car left the farm they followed at a distance and passed the details of the car’s movements to the police by phone.
Officers stopped the car on the A92 Stonehaven road and arrested the men on suspicion of hare coursing.
The vehicle was searched and the dogs, dog leads and a mobile phone within the rear of the vehicle were all seized.
The phone, which belongs to Starr, was sent for analysis.
It was found to contain a WhatsApp group with voice messages arranging to meet up to go hare coursing.
There was also a video taken by Starr on February 2, which showed one of the dogs with a dead hare.
The short video clip shows a man approaching a dog, which has a dead hare.
The man pulls the animal from the dogs jaws and confirms it is a “big buck”.
Hare coursing was made illegal in the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act.
Anderson, 51, and Starr, 41, pled guilty to breaching the Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which deals with the protection of wild hares.
They were given community payback orders compelling them to carry out 190 hours unpaid work and banned from keeping dogs for two years.
Wilson, 25, was handed the same sentenced for the same breaches, with the addition of a year’s supervision.
Speaking after the sentencing, Fiona Caldwell, Head of the Crown’s Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit said: “I welcome the sentence of these three men and the message it should send to anyone involved in hare coursing.
“Hare coursing is a cruel and wholly illegal act.
“The Crown will continue to work to ensure that anyone who hunts hares with dogs is brought to justice.
“We would encourage anyone who may have information on hare coursing to contact the police.”