Hares on run from de­clin­ing na­tive habi­tats

Middleton Guardian - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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

RSPB

Brown hares are be­com­ing a rar­ity in some ar­eas

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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