Culling of moun­tain hares in ig­no­rance should stop

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

THE on­set of win­ter is per­ilous enough for most wildlife, but for the moun­tain hare it is es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous, as in the colder half of the year it is the le­gal ob­ject of sport shoot­ing.

No one knows how many of th­ese iconic na­tive crea­tures there are in Scot­land, or how many are killed each year, or what ef­fect the culling has on their pop­u­la­tions.

By one es­ti­mate there are 350,000, with per­haps 25,000 killed a year, but the fig­ures are hope­lessly out of date, and only the rough­est guide to the truth.

It is this ig­no­rance which ten en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the RSPB, Scot­tish Wildlife Trust and Na­tional Trust for Scot­land, want to stop.

They are call­ing for a tem­po­rary ban on all moun­tain hare culling on grouse moors un­til a reg­u­lated, in­formed sys­tem can be put in place to en­sure sta­ble num­bers.

Es­tate own­ers say culling is needed to con­trol pe­ri­odic surges in hare pop­u­la­tion which pose a dan­ger to veg­e­ta­tion and spread tick-borne dis­ease to grouse.

Only 10 to 20 per cent of a lo­cal pop­u­la­tion is killed, they say.

In re­cent years, the Scot­tish Govern­ment has urged “vol­un­tary re­straint” by landown­ers, but there are signs this is be­ing ig­nored, and large-scale culling is again tak­ing place re­gard­less.

In­ad­e­quate in­for­ma­tion and in­ad­e­quate reg­u­la­tion is a bad com­bi­na­tion. SNP min­is­ters should sup­port a tem­po­rary ban on hare culling this win­ter.

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