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By one estimate there are 350,000, with perhaps 25,000 killed a year, but the figures are hopelessly out of date, and only the roughest guide to the truth.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