Hare today and hopefully tomorrow

how-to-double-your-number-of-known-legators-in-12-months-andrew-gilruth-gwct-8-728I was looking for information on the SNH website about the goose cull on Islay and came across this press release which appeared the day before Christmas Eve – maybe you missed it.

This was the bit that caught my eye the most:

Large-scale culls of mountain hares to reduce tick loads, in order to benefit grouse and other bird survival, will only be effective when other hosts are absent, or their ability to host ticks are similarly reduced. This will not be the case for many estates in Scotland.

On the basis of the available evidence, there is no compelling field evidence for undertaking large-scale mountain hare culls to control Louping Ill Virus in areas of Scotland where there are high densities of other tick-bearing mammals. Culls should therefore not be undertaken for this purpose in these circumstances.



23 Replies to “Hare today and hopefully tomorrow”

  1. Is there not a case for making mountain hares a protected species.

    Of course this strategy is not wholly effective for hen harriers anyway.

  2. I must say I’ve always been confused by gameys who have told me that they use sheep to ‘mop up the ticks’. Surely even if there’s a short term benefit of providing another host species and so reduce available tick numbers temporaily, they are going to increase in the long term due to more available blood meals. Maybe there’ve been some studies on it, but it’s early morning and a night of crying and shitty nappies have rendered me less inclined to find out.

    1. The sheep are treated with aracnicide, which kills ticks and so as they wander the moor, they ‘mop up’ ticks and kill them.

      Now get back to those nappies, what do you think this is – a holiday?

    1. Yes that paragraph made me chuckle Mark. “ASK estates to adhere to VOLUNTARY RESTRAINT”. After all they have such an impeccable track record for restraint and cooperation don’t they?

      1. I wonder if there has ever been an example of “voluntary restraint” being a successful conservation measure…. SNH are becoming very good at undermining nature conservation.

    2. Aye, ’tis a sad day when SNH make strong and seemingly accurate statements and then someone comes along with the metaphoric shotgun and threatens funding / jobs perhaps? Whilst my terminology is not perhaps festive (or is it, the guns were pretty loud around here on Boxing Day) it may even seem a tad draconian but you get the gist?

      Perhaps I’ve misjudged, after all Douglas McAdam Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates suggests sound management plan but surprisingly offers no robust science by way of evidence to underpin their case ….

      The press release goes on to explain

      SNH has also joined forces with the James Hutton Institute (JHI) and Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) to begin a three-year joint study to trial several methods of assessing mountain hare population densities to determine the number of hares in a particular area.

      The project will develop a reliable and cost-effective field method that can be used to form the basis of a longer-term monitoring programme for the first time. This will lead to a better understanding of how hare populations are faring at both local and national scales, and to better-informed decisions about their sustainable management.

      Currently most of the information on hare population trends is drawn from reports to GWCT about the number of hares shot on estates (game bags). 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%.

      The new project will trial various methods to identify the most suitable way of counting hares – with the objective of making reliable estimates of population density. One of the aims of the study is to develop a method which doesn’t rely solely on scientists but uses methods that could be collected by people working in the uplands.

      Science dredged from GW[C]T archive, with 50% error! If conservation (eg RSPB, TWTs et. al.) offere that kind of margin we’d quite rightly be laughed out of court?

      As for ‘keeper science’ (‘people working in the uplands’) to provide evidence or statistics, do they really think the figures won’t be fiddled (oops, here I go again not having trust in those nice estate owners et. al.)

      Is it my powers of recollection, but back in the mists of time I seem to remember claims that the badger culls would be ‘cost effective’ also?

      Interesting that JHI have previously undertaken work which suggests a reliable methodology and which resulted in the 2008 Report 287 for SNH (ok a tad oudated), see http://www.hutton.ac.uk/research/groups/ecological-sciences/landscape-and-spatial-ecology/mountain-hares/conservation so one might be forgiven for asking is this to generate robust and accurate statistics or is it tax payers funding ‘highland fudge’ to assist the continuation of the carnage ….

      Please SNH get a backbone, let’s have some independently funded robust science funded by the three of you, free from favour or influence?

      Apologies if I seem to offer a cynical comment Mark, I accept that there must be a way to read the amended press release that sees opportunities rather than challenges perhaps?

  3. Hi Mark

    Do you know if this is going on in The Peak District? we have Mountain Hares there, they were introduced by the Victorians for shooting, apparently!

  4. “We recognise that some culling is occasionally needed to ensure healthy grouse stocks…”

    How much more of our biodiversity has to be sacrificed for this minority ‘sport’?

    I’ve been a shooter, I’ve shot grouse, I’ve had more than enough of the ‘kill everything to increase the grouse’…and then kill them.

    Its a pastime that is past its time.

  5. It did not stop them culling on the Lammermuir Estates south of Edinburgh !! I do not believe in single species conservation especially when that species is a legitimate target species !!!

  6. “On the basis of the available evidence, there is no compelling field evidence for undertaking large-scale mountain hare culls to control Louping Ill Virus in areas of Scotland where there are high densities of other tick-bearing mammals. Culls should therefore not be undertaken for this purpose in these circumstances.”

    If this is truly the case, then why are my taxes being spent to help find some shred of evidence to support killing hares?

    The worrying part of the statement is that on the intensive moors where deer have been extirpated, ‘keepers might interpret the ‘other tick-bearing mammals’ as carte blanche to kill all the voles, mice, shrews etc.

    if you create an industrial monoculture, then you forfeit the right to call it conservation!

    How about getting the Scottish Government to consider a ban too?

  7. So now there is clear research saying, “ban muirburn because its an ecological disaster”; stop killing corvids because its ineffective; and now there is research saying “stop killing hares because its an ecological disaster”.
    Stop procrastinating….. Lets just ban the cause and cure this problem…

  8. Maybe it’s symptomatic of the times we live in, but all the debate about the fine print of hare culls and whether SNH is being tough enough surely can’t completely conceal the horror of these beautiful animals being slaughtered and flung contemptuously in a stinking pit because they might – possibly – be impacting someones out and out right to profit. It may be legal – though this seems a long way from the concept of ‘legal quarry’ – but is it even remotely moral or right ? I don’t think so and I do think there is a clear and sharp line in the sand between the warped thinking of people who appear to be able to justify to themselves that because they are rich and powerful they can do what they like and the future of the human race – the two just don’t go together.

  9. On our moors Roe Deer are shot on sight regardless of any deer shooting season for the same reason as the mountain hares.

  10. Somewhere in the replies I read the comment ‘sustainable management’ of mountain hares….excuse me, hares DO NOT need be sustainably managed. If left alone they will be just perfect.

  11. Lets be honest we love a good cull in this country don’t we ? Over the last few years there have been actual or calls for culls on the following (off the top of my head, so apologies to any species I omit); mountain hare, fox, otter, mustelids, badger, various deer, pine marten, beaver, wild boar, corvids, lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, cormorant, common buzzard. Oh and happily I believe the war against the vile mole continues, although sadly we don’t hang them from fences quite as much as we used to. Quite rightly though, we continue to take other countries to task over the way they fail to protect their natural heritage. Just saying.

  12. Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t the Grouse moor ‘chappies’ complain (for ‘complain’ read murder) that Golden Eagles and foxes take their hugely endangered (!!!) Red Grouse? I’m trying to remember what these two species largely prey on in Scotland! Could someone please tell them that if you take away their natural prey, predators will turn to any alternative prey that’s around, especially if it is in unnatural numbers. Now what could I be referring to!

  13. Forgot to mention that one of the main reasons for large tick numbers is the overstocking of sheep in the uplands, not only in Scotland I might add.

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