March mad­ness: Why hares are so full of spring

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

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

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