Calls for regulated culling
CONSERVATIONISTS WANT TO SEE MOUNTAIN HARE POPULATIONS ASSESSED TO INFORM MANAGEMENT APPROACH.
Conservationists want to see mountain hare populations assessed
Animal welfare and wildlife conservation campaigners have called on the Scottish Government to monitor and regulate the culling of mountain hares more tightly.
A coalition of campaigning groups claims that covert footage taken on private estates has revealed the “brutal, military-style mass killing of Scotland’s mountain hares on grouse moors”.
Harry Huyton, the director of one of the groups involved, OneKind, says one of the problems is that little is known about the overall hare population in Scotland because the species is very poorly studied.
“The correct response to this uncertainty, given that this is a species of conservation concern, is to extend the close season, which currently runs from April to July, so that it applies all year round,” Huyton says. “This would have the effect of introducing a licensing system.”
The Scottish Moorland Group says hares are culled where populations grow too large and “damage habitats and trees and also spread ticks”, and that numbers are typically reduced by between 5–14 per cent on open moorland.
“Uncontrolled, they spread the sheep tick which affects red grouse and can also cause the failure of tree planting,” says the chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, David Johnstone. “Land managers know that they have to do something about it.”
Scottish Natural Heritage says it wants to develop a method for assessing mountain hare populations in the Scottish uplands to make managing them more informed and transparent.
A report published in January said they are under threat in some places from over-exploitation, and there is some evidence of declines of up to 40 per cent in the past 15–20 years.
But the report also acknowledges that populations of the species naturally have large fluctuations over long time periods, and that it also does well in areas managed for red grouse because of heather management and predator control.
An all-terrain vehicle full of culled mountain hares on Farr Estate, Scotland. Campaigners want to extend the close season.