Calls for reg­u­lated culling

CON­SER­VA­TION­ISTS WANT TO SEE MOUN­TAIN HARE POP­U­LA­TIONS AS­SESSED TO IN­FORM MAN­AGE­MENT AP­PROACH.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Welcome - James Fair

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.

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