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The conservation status and management of mountain hares

Photograph of a mountain hare in winter colours
Mountain hares are an important prey species for other protected species such as the golden eagle and play a largely unexplored role in the Scottish upland landscape.

Evidence suggests that mountain hare numbers have declined in recent years; however the extent of this decline and whether this represents a long-term decline or is the low phase of a synchronised population cycle is not clear.

In some areas mountain hares are an important quarry species but mountain hares are also culled for pest control and increasingly for the control of ticks and louping-ill. Mountain hares are an important prey species for other protected species such as the golden eagle and play a largely unexplored role in the Scottish upland landscape.

Against this back drop Scottish Natural Heritage and Scotland’s Moorland Forum have expressed concern that there are no reliable estimates of mountain hare abundance. Members of the Scottish Parliament have also raised questions as to the sustainability of mountain hare populations in Scotland in the face of some current management practices.

This project was initiated to make recommendations on:

  • assessment of current mountain hare abundance
  • assessment of the current level of harvest
  • assessment the conservation status of mountain hares in Scotland
  • future long-term monitoring programmes for surveillance of mountain hare populations in Scotland
  • to highlight areas of research necessary to fully assess the impact of harvesting mountain hares on their population and conservation status.

See the full report on the Scottish Natural Heritage publications website.

Research

Areas of Interest


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.