Hunts in Cumbria are as popular as ever, according to senior figures involved in the sport in the area.

Although the traditional chase of a fox with a pack of hounds was outlawed in February, the area's hunts have taken on a range of alternatives.

Chairman of the Lunesdale Foxhounds, Eddie Braithwaite, explained the fell pack had been involved in "legal hound activities" since the ban was introduced.

These included drag hunting, which involves laying a trail for the hounds to follow mimicking the twists and turns of a real fox as it attempts to escaped its pursuers, as well as taking hounds out to exercise.

He said the pack had also disturbed foxes during its activities and accidentally killed them although he would not say how many had died.

Mr Braithwaite said that the pack also offered a service to farmers to help get rid of foxes on their land with the help of terriers to unearth the animals before shooting them Alison Bolt, chairwoman of the North Lonsdale Foxhounds, said that she had feared that the hounds would have to be put down when the ban was introduced. But she said thanks to help from hunt supporters the dogs had been saved and that turnout at activities organised by the hunts was "probably the same as usual."

" We are trying to stick to the law but it is difficult and time consuming," she said.

Chairman of the Vale of Lune Hunt, David Welsh, said the hunt would probably be pressing ahead with plans for fell runners to act as the prey for the hunt's bloodhounds this season The Countryside Alliance has vowed to fight on after the law lords - the country's highest court - threw out the organisation's challenge to the ban on hunting with dogs.

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