Hares on run from declining native habitats
IF I had the inclination, I could leave the gallery every morning and within ten minutes walk shout hello to a number of brown hares, but just knowing that they are around is good enough for me. I also count myself as very lucky, actually uber-lucky, because within half an hour’s walk I can doff my cap to mountain hares as well.
During the late 1800s there were about four million brown hares in Britain. But recent surveys show the brown hare has declined by more than 80 per cent during the past 100 years and the decline is ongoing. In some parts of Britain, such as the south west, the brown hare is almost a rarity and may even be locally extinct.
The reasons for this decline are not entirely clear, but intensification of agriculture has certainly been a major factor. Hares do not hibernate or store appreciable amounts of fat in their bodies and so need a constant food supply throughout the year. This can only be provided by landscapes rich in biodiversity. Their ancestral homes of past aeons provided a diversity of grass and herb species maturing in succession throughout the year.
Agricultural landscapes, including traditional hay meadows and crops grown in rotation, provided similar diversity in relatively recent times. But 95pc of hay meadows have been lost since the Second World War. Hay making has largely been replaced by silage production which is more
Brown hares are becoming a rarity in some areas
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop