The net is closing on illegal hare coursers who have threatened farmers in Angus.
Illicit hunters have targeted the area, threatening earlier this year to “burn down” a farm after being approached by the landowner.
Police Scotland’s Angus area commander Chief Inspector Wayne Morrison said they are pursuing a number of suspects with links to the barbaric sport.
He said: “We are aware of the incidents but when it comes to hare coursing it is very difficult to prove, given the nature of how they put things together.
“We are aware of two or three individuals in the Angus area that are very, very active. We’ve not given up on getting a case to court but it’s still a work in progress.”
Forfar councillor Lynne Devine, SNP, questioned the county’s most senior police officer about rural crime after hearing about the effect of the “sport” on local farmers.
She said: “The one I am particularly talking about is hare coursing, which is obviously a rural crime. There has been some incredibly threatening behaviour and farmers have felt very frightened by it indeed.”
One farmer, who did not wish to be named, said he had to treat 15 sheep with antibiotics after their ears were ripped apart by lurchers used to chase the hares from cover.
He said he had confronted the criminals when he found them on his land.
He said: “When we approached them they threatened to burn the farm down. We have to take these threats seriously.
“If their dogs get in amongst the sheep they start ripping shreds out of them.”
He said he had reported numerous incidents to the police in the last two years.
He continued: “The police should be doing more to help us – this is an illegal activity.
“Those involved are confident, threatening and aggressive. They operate in broad daylight and come back at night using a spotlight.”
Hare coursing is a bloodsport in which dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares.
Anyone convicted of the offence can receive a fine of up to £5,000. Legislation also gives police the powers to seize and detain vehicles until a court hearing.
The ‘sport’ tends to start after harvest when the crops have been cut and often takes place early in the morning or at dusk.
The Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland urged residents to report any suspicious activity.