Counting mountain hares in the Lammermuir hills- past project
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 aimed to establish methods, including thermal imaging, to give reliable independent estimates of mountain hare numbers in the north-west Lammermuirs. We had agreement with the Estates we worked with to inform us of timing, number and location of culls. We assessed the short and longer term effects of culling on mountain hare numbers over a period of several years. To our knowledge, this cooperation was unique in Scotland.
We also investigated 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.