Collective effort needed to help mountain hares on unmanaged moorland

Press Release

The absence of mountain hares on unmanaged moorland across Scotland should be a collective priority rather than exclusively focusing on hare populations on grouse moors.

Scottish Land & Estates, the rural business organisation, made the comments in response a Scottish Green Party amendment at stage 3 of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill that would introduce further restrictions on managing mountain hare populations.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of Scottish Land & Estates, said:

“Managed grouse moorland sustains a high population of mountain hares, estimated to be around 135,000 in an SNH commissioned report. In the Highland region, the density of mountain hares on driven grouse moors was 35 times higher than on moors not managed for shooting. The recent Werritty report acknowledged mountain hares benefitted from many aspects of grouse moor management.

“New methodology developed by SNH, James Hutton Institute and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust has revolutionised mountain hare counting and management on grouse moors. This includes night-time counts and real-time data reporting via a specially developed phone app from Imperial College London. To date, over 100 gamekeepers and estate staff have undertaken training at 70 sites.

“Control of mountain hare populations is already subject to legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2011 and it is disappointing that the Scottish Greens’ amendment shows no concern for the large-scale absence of mountain hares away from grouse moors. This may lead some to wonder if their priority is the strength of mountain hare populations or the chance to restrict grouse moor management.”