Wiltshire's fight against illegal hare coursing is being helped by new specialist equipment which makes it easier to spot criminals.
The cruel bloodsport where bets placed on dogs to see which one will chase and catch a wild hare first, is usually streamed online to audiences of thousands across the world.
Criminals gambling on the events have been shown to have links to activities such as major drugs operations and modern day slavery.
As part of these pursuits, violent threats are made towards landowners and tenants as well as damage costing thousands of pounds being caused to crops and property.
In the past, Wiltshire's Rural Crime Team would usually scour places like Salisbury Plain, after receiving local intelligence, looking for signs of hare coursing such as lamp lights.
Now, the team has been kitted up with thermal imaging drones and telescopes to make spotting them a lot easier.
Sgt Rob Goacher from the Rural Crime Team said:
"It's a game changer for us. We don't have to rely on looking for physical lamps in the sky.
"We can use our night vision kit on high points and we can see vehicles from a long way away and we can dial other units into the area to catch the offenders"
Once in postion, a drone can cover a wide area without being detected and zoom in using its thermal imaging camera to spots signs of hare coursing.
During a recent operation in South Wiltshire, the Rural Crime Team was joined by local farmers and Wiltshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Wilkinson.
He was impressed with what he saw:
"This is a joint effort. This is where the police are representing the community, they are part of the community and we are working with community to make the community safer.
"Until we had this kit, we were blind so we were at a huge disadvantage.
"The Rural Crime Team is much better equipped now and we are going make Wiltshire a hostile environment who conduct all sorts of rural crime"
Published Tuesday 4 October 2022