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Scottish Moorland Group statement on mountain hares

The Scottish Moorland Group has issued the following statement in response to criticism of the management of mountain hare populations. 

Tim Baynes, director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “Mountain hares populations are often very high on managed moorland in comparison to other upland environments. On occasion, it is necessary to cull some mountain hares to limit the spread of ticks, for the protection of trees and to maintain fragile habitats. Such management is comparable to organisations such as RSPB, SWT and John Muir Trust culling deer on land owned by their charities. 

“There is no evidence provided by the ten organisations to substantiate claims that periodic culls are endangering mountain hare populations. In 2014, we issued a joint statement with SNH which acknowledged the need for occasional culls but recognised the requirement to do so responsibly. Culls range from 14% to 5% of hare populations in years when culls are carried out, which is sustainable.

“Despite attempts to criticise grouse moors for managing mountain hare numbers, the real issue lies further north and west in Scotland where populations have died out in many places. The organisations give no indication of how many mountain hares exist on their own reserves and we believe attention should be focused on such areas where mountain hares are completely absent. Grouse moors are an excellent habitat for mountain hare breeding, a fact recognised by visitors who come to spot them on moors throughout Scotland.

“A three year study involving SNH, James Hutton Institute and Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust looking at methods to more accurately assess mountain hare populations is almost complete. We firmly believe it would be best to allow this evidence-based research to be published – and then implemented.”

 

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