OUTRAGED residents are calling for trail hunting to be banned after a suspected fox hunt was sighted in a Denmead woodland without permission.
Resident Tim Gay said he spotted a large fox when out for a run in Creech Woods on November 6, shortly followed by the Hursley Hambledon hunt.
Tim said: ‘A large fox crossed my path, followed, some minutes later, by about 15 hounds and nine or 10 people in hunting outfits on horseback with others in mini Jeeps behind them.
‘This was clearly a fox hunt rather than a drag hunt. They seemed a bit inconvenienced by the fact that I was running in the area, asked how far I was planning to go, and were relieved to hear I was on my way home. They had not, by the time I left, tracked down the fox.’
The hunt has denied it was after a fox, and had not intended to be in Creech woods. It said that its hounds had followed a different scent to one that it had laid.
Residents took to Facebook to voice their opposition to trail hunting, which mimics traditional hunting by following an animal-based scent trail of fox urine.
A spokeswoman for Forestry England said they did not issue permission for trail hunting at Creech Woods on November 6, which is required for the group to enter the woodland.
She added: ‘We are responding to concerns from local people and there are different accounts of what happened so we’re currently getting as much information from different people as we can.’
A hunt spokesman said the hounds followed a scent trail which had not been laid by hunt members, which led to them entering Creech Woods before returning the hounds to the planned route.
Angie Ryan, who lives in the area, said: ‘I just think it should be totally banned as inevitably sometimes animals are killed, be it a fox or a rabbit.
‘They should totally ban it, the more areas we can push them out of the better. It has to be banned because mistakes do happen and all the animals out there will be terrified by all the noise.’
The Hursley Hambledon Hunt met close to Soberton at 11am last Wednesday for a route agreed with local farmers and landowners, before hounds followed a different scent to Creech Wood.
A spokesman said: ‘Our huntsman immediately took all steps to call them back, but I understand that the whole process took about 20 to 30 minutes before all hounds were back on the ground/route we had planned for them.
‘I am not aware of any fox seen by residents in Creech Wood but I can confirm that we had no intention of any of our hounds being in Creech Wood anyway and I believe that there is no suggestion that our hounds chased the fox.’
The hunt has apologised for entering land without permission, and urges anyone who would appreciate direct contact about this incident to let them know.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: ‘By law, hunts are supposed to ensure they have their hounds under control at all times to avoid ‘accidents’ happening and foxes being killed when the dogs can’t distinguish between a trail laid using animal scent and the animal itself.
‘By their own admission the Hursley Hambledon could not control their hounds and ended up trespassing on Forestry Commission land, and it was only by the fox’s good fortune that it managed to get away.
‘We’d suggest laying a trail near that area is foolish in the extreme. Not only did they risk ‘accidentally’ hunting a fox, but they also risked their hounds getting onto Southwick Road and being injured or worse by the passing cars.’