March madness: Why hares are so full of spring
DOESN’T spring give you a warm glow? It’s definitely been a warm start to the season after the damp and cold winter we all suffered.
It’s a time when our wildlife is getting excited.
You can hear it in the birdsong every morning.
Spring is here and it’s time for action.
The wildlife certainly gives me a lift and if there’s one thing that really gets my pulses racing it’s the sight of brown hares revving up for some March – and April – madness.
Scientists are still a little unsure about why hares congregate around the time of the spring equinox in March. And why they charge around, leaping and dancing throughout the countryside.
I think it’s pretty obvious. Remember hares do not nest underground like rabbits. They have spent a miserable winter in hollows in woodland edges and hedgerows, getting soaked as it rained for weeks on end. Now, feeling warm and dry, who wouldn’t want to leap with joy and happiness?
And a lot of it may be down to the whole mating thing. It’s just like Deansgate on a warm spring Saturday night, with males and females strutting their stuff trying to attract a ‘mate’.
Even the boxing part of hare courtship is now being explained as females slapping away unwanted attention from males as well as males battling for domination. They don’t need beer to misbehave.
Brown hares are tremendous creatures.
They are more extended than rabbits and their long legs can push their sinewy bodies up to speeds of 45mph. Much of that running is done in zigzags so watching a hare on open grassland is a breathtaking sight.
The unfortunate thing is that speed and the sudden changes of direction made brown hares a lively opponent for blood sports fanatics. They didn’t want something that was easy to catch and they justify hare coursing with the fact that some of the hares actually escaped.
This still goes on in our region, which is sad.
Along with the destruction of hedgerows half a century ago, it led to numbers of hares plummeting in the UK from around four million to less than 800,000 today.
The Wildlife Trust is a huge fan of hares and we see them on the majority of our reserves and projects. So we decided to start The Last Brown Hare Appeal to ensure that we do not see the brown hare becoming extinct on our patch.
We want people to learn and understand more about this creature and all the other wildlife in the region, by joining the ranks of our 27,000 members. Did you know brown hares have black tips on their ears, rabbits do not? You can have that for free. We also want to increase protection and we are asking that you contact your MP to enquire why this iconic mammal is not properly safeguarded.
There are many ways you can get involved in the appeal just give us a call on 01772 324129 or go to.lancswt.org.uk/ last-brown-hare, which is our appeal page.
Seeing a brown hare speeding across the countryside in spring is one of nature’s great experiences. Make sure it’s still there for your children and grandchildren.
To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside text WILD09 with the amount you want to donate to 70070.
For information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust.org. uk.
●● A brown hare