Counting mountain hares in the Lammermuir hills
Obtaining reliable numbers of mountain hares will inform debate about threats to their survival as an iconic Scottish species
The mountain hare is Britain's only indigenous hare. It is adapted to severe conditions and thrives in the Scottish highlands. Animals from there were introduced onto shooting estates in Scotland in the 19th century.
Information on population numbers is sketchy and yet populations are threatened nationally by culling on grouse moors. Reliable estimates of population numbers is an essential basis for any debate about the future status of the mountain hare as a protected species and about the effects of culling hares on grouse moors.
This project will establish methods, including thermal imaging, which will give reliable independent estimates of mountain hare numbers in the north-west Lammermuirs. We have agreement with the Estates we work with to inform us of timing, number and location of future culls. We will be in a strong position to assess the short and longer term effects of culling on mountain hare numbers over a period of three or more years. To our knowledge, this cooperation is unique in Scotland.
We will also investigate whether grouse moor management practices do indeed lead to an environment favourable to larger populations of mountain hares. This will inform the current general debate on the environmental and biodiversity implications of such practices.