A dog walker fears hares could be the target of bloodsport enthusiasts after discovering three of the animals dead at a popular parkland.
Samuel Marshall discovered the bodies of three hares as he took his black Labrador George out for his morning walk on Monday in Washington.
Whoever is behind this is evil.Samuel Marshall
The 65-year-old retired construction worker was left distressed by the sight and he believes they could have died at the hands of coursing, where dogs are used to attack.
He said: “I saw them on the grass verge and it was obvious to me dogs had been at set on them.
“This shouldn’t been happening on parkland.
“People have been driving vehicles around here and dumping rubbish, and now this.
“I’ve been coming here for 60 years and I’ve seen the decline in hares, so to only have three, four or five around and to loose three because of dogs, I think it’s absolutely horrendous and I think it needs to be highlighted.
“I think there needs to be more patrols carried out round here.
“Whoever is behind his is evil.”
“When I found them, I was very upset.”
Samuel, who lives in Leam Lane, Gateshead, said he contacted the RSPCA to pass on his concerns.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “We have been made aware of three hares found dead at Northern Area Playing Fields in Washington.
“Hare coursing - where hare are hunted with dogs - is illegal under the Hunting Act 2004 and anyone with any specific information should call police or the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.”
Hares are the only game species in England and Wales not protected by a close hunting season.
Under the 1880 ground game act they can be shot throughout the year, even during the breeding season.
Hare numbers have been in decline due to shooting and coursing, as well as a change in agricultural practices, which have had an impact on their grassland habitat.
It is classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.