TEN men have been arrested as part of a police operation targeting hare coursing.

Police launched Operation Migrate in late October to coincide with the beginning of the hare coursing season.

Officers stepped up patrols across the Vale of White Horse district and set up an early-warning ring of farmers, land-owners and police.

Hare coursing, the illegal practice of setting loose lurcher dogs on a hare with bets on the outcome, can damage land and fences.

Police are appealing for anyone who sees coursing taking place or spots suspicious activity in the countryside to contact them immediately.

Pc Steve Lynch, based at Wantage police station, said: “Every autumn and through the winter months, hare coursers become a menace to local farmers and landowners.

“It is not just the act of putting dogs on to the hares that we are concerned about, but also the fact that this is often combined with the total disregard for other people’s property.

“They cause criminal damage to crops, fences and buildings and in addition, those responsible are very often in breach of various traffic laws.

“I would like to remind the public that if anyone is caught hare coursing they will be arrested and their vehicles and dogs seized.”

Police are working on the operation with the RSPCA.

The police operation has been running from Faringdon, in the west, across miles of Oxfordshire countryside to Blewbury and Harwell, in the east.

Hare coursers are also known to use The Ridgeway in the county.

Anyone with information should contact police on 08456 505505 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Four men were arrested in Steventon Road, Steventon, last month on suspicion of hare coursing. They were released on bail until January 4.

In East Hanney, six men were arrested on December 4 for hare coursing and bailed until January 20.