A HORRIFIED Largs woman has told how she witnessed a gang of men and over 20 dogs involved in a barbaric foxhunt in the hills behind the town.

The lady contact the News after seeing the hunt returning from the land near to Bellsdale Avenue.

Site owners Stakis say they have given nobody permission to access the site and say they are investigating the 'very serious' matter.

The men were approached by concerned passers-by at around 3pm on Sunday near the gate entrance.

The witness, who has asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, says she was told 'that foxhunting was taking place'.

She said: "Members of the party told us that the hounds ran the foxes to ground and then they were shot.

"There was no sign of guns, but they tried to assure us the hounds didn’t kill the foxes.

"We were taken aback by what we were told."

The woman said the gang's vehicles were parked at the entrance to Halkshill Estate, which is accessed through a locked gate.

She added: "I feel very strongly that the people of Largs should know that this deplorable sport is still being pursued in our town.

"One of the men actually went out of his way to speak to us and explain what they were doing.

"I was told that the foxes had been killing lambs and that was why the hunt was taking place.

"The men all got into Land Rovers before driving off. "Most of the dogs looked like cross greyhounds. They were clearly exhausted from whatever they had been doing."

A spokesperson for Stakis said: "We are shocked and disappointed that this has happened and we will be following this up in the police

"Stakis was certainly not involved in giving any permission to this kind of activity and we will be taking active steps to stop this from happening again.

"We are also investigating that it may have been deer poaching taking place."

Fox hunting in Scotland is currently controlled by the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, which came into force in 2002.

Hunting with hounds was effectively banned in 2002, but dogs can still be used for flushing out foxes to be shot.

A new bill is being passed to close loopholes in the existing rules, limiting the number of dogs which can be used while hunting to two.

Anyone with information can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.