A hare courser has been jailed after DNA taken from a hunting dog helped snare him and two others.
At Forfar Sheriff Court, Colin Stewart was imprisoned for 135 days and banned from keeping any dog for one year.
A 16-year-old co-accused, who can’t be named for legal reasons, received
a one-year supervision order and disqualification of custody of any dog for a year, while a third courser, Raymond Higgins, was fined £400.
The trio were found to be using dogs to hunt hares near Kirriemuir in March.
Witnesses reported the Angus incident to Police Scotland on March 27, providing detailed descriptions of the men and the vehicle used.
After the three were arrested their dogs were photographed and swabs taken for DNA analysis.
A post-mortem examination by SAC Consulting veterinary services confirmed the hare had died from injuries caused by a large predator.
Samples taken from the hare carcass were then sent to Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (Sasa) for DNA analysis, which resulted in one of the dogs’ DNA being identified.
Mobile phones and a video camera were seized during the investigation and found to contain footage of the men posing with dead hares.
Detective Chief Superintendent Sean Scott, of Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, said: “This is an excellent example of partnership working to secure a conviction.
“The public have also played a major part in this investigation by providing such detailed descriptions and accounts of the incident.
“Police Scotland is committed to tackling wildlife crime and our detection rates are increasing.
“Investigating wildlife crime can be difficult because of the nature of the crimes and the terrain where crimes occur.
“Hare coursing where dogs chase the animal is a particularly violent crime.
“Public awareness is crucial in helping us tackle crimes like poaching and hare coursing, and working with partners we will continue to bring those who commit wildlife crime to justice.”
Dr Lucy Webster, of wildlife DNA forensics at Sasa, said: “This case
demonstrates the power of animal DNA in wildlife crime investigation.
“A dog DNA profile recovered from the hare carcass is a match to one of the dependents’ dogs – providing very strong evidence to link these men to this specific hare coursing incident.”