A new joint initiative urging voluntary restraint on large scale culls of mountain hares has been launched.
The move by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) should, along with several other measures, help ensure that future management is sustainable.
Concern has been expressed recently about the lack of hare numbers in Berwickshire’s Lammermuir Hills
Ron Macdonald, SNH’s director of policy and advice, said: “We are asking estates for restraint on large-scale culls of mountain hares which could jeopardise the conservation status of mountain hares.
“We recognise that some culling is occasionally needed to ensure healthy grouse stocks, but available evidence shows that large-scale culls of mountain hares are only effective when other tick-carrying animals are removed, or there is an absence of them in the area. Where such animals are not removed we urge that hare culls should not be undertaken.
“We do not support large-scale culls and we will work with estates to put in place effective but sustainable management of mountain hares.”
Adam Smith, Director (Scotland) of the GWCT, said: “We want to ensure that the strong positive relationship between mountain hares and management for red grouse continues. The shooting of mountain hares on Scottish moors can be done sustainably, and under certain conditions more intensive culls may be appropriate as part of a package of actions to sustain moorland management.
“However, moorland managers should carefully assess the need for and impact of their actions on their own and neighbouring hare populations, and regularly reassess this management.”
The last national estimate, published in 1995, suggested that there were 350,000 mountain hares in Scotland, but this estimate had error margins of plus or minus 50%.