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How do mountain hare populations respond to different management regimes?

Photograph of a mountain hare in winter colours
The challenging task of managing the sustainable use of any species is even more difficult for species that dwell in fragmented landscapes or exhibit cyclic or regular, high amplitude changes in density.

Natural populations are often exploited for subsistence or commerce. However, our ability to sustain exploited populations is often inadequate due to limitations in our understanding of critical biological processes, poor demographic data, and poor decision-making frameworks. The challenging task of managing the sustainable use of any species is even more difficult for species that dwell in fragmented landscapes or exhibit cyclic or regular, high amplitude changes in density.

The sustainability of harvesting, the efficacy of culling programmes, and the impact of both on the long-term conservation status of exploited species is dependant on the interaction between natural and human caused mortality and, given the increasingly fragmented habitat that many species dwell in, the linkage (immigration and emigration) of populations.

Mountain hares are a traditional quarry species and may be an important source of revenue for sporting estates. They are also killed to control numbers on grouse moors, to protect forestry plantation, woodland regeneration, and crops.

Mountain hares are an important host for sheep ticks and can in some circumstances play a key role in the transmission of the louping-ill virus. As a result they are increasingly subject to management culls as part of tick and louping-ill control programmes. The management of mountain hares as part of tick control programmes is creating a perceived conflict between some stakeholders.

Understanding how mountain hare populations respond to different levels of harvest or culling is vital for the species sustainable management and to the efficacy of culling hares to control ticks and louping ill.

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.