Sadly, there are now less than 2,400 mountain hares left in England.
We’re putting a stop to this decline but we need your help. A gift of £10 could buy a thermal imaging kit to help us monitor these special hares.
Hare today, gone tomorrow
The shy mountain hare was once found all across the UK’s uplands. Habitat degradation and hunting left them confined mainly to Scotland and Ireland. Back in the 1880s, landowners attempted to reintroduce mountain hares to England. Most populations failed. However, a small group in the Peak District survived and spread, establishing itself across the national park.
Despite making it this far, this population of hares face more threats than ever before. Roads have led to more hares being hit by cars and also prevented different groups of hares from meeting, mating and maintaining genetic diversity. Illegal hunting is also thought to be a factor and hares are often found dead in suspicious circumstances. Although banned, ‘hare coursing’ still goes on, which involves two dogs such as greyhounds, racing to catch the hare first. If that wasn’t enough to contend with, milder temperatures due to climate change are not favourable for mountain hares, which are well adapted to the cold. It’s incredible that these mountain hares have made it to this point, against all odds!
Did you know?
Mountain hares are the UK’s only native hare. They have two coats – a white one for winter and brown for summer. This ensures that they are almost perfectly camouflaged against the snowy Peak District during winter and the moorland during warmer months.
However, we CAN turn this around
We won’t let England’s only remaining mountain hares go extinct. That’s why we’re funding Carlos Bedson to investigate the sustainability and viability of the remaining ones. He’s monitoring the hares and exploring how the threats are affecting them ‘through thermal imaging to count how many hares there are, genetic sampling to assess how much genetic diversity there is amongst the population, and camera trap monitoring to get a better understanding of the activity patterns of mountain hares in general. The goal is to review the legal status of mountain hares and offer them more protection.
We want mountain hares to thrive again in the Peak District. Carlos’ continuing research will give us the information needed to put in place measures to enable them to do that. And the implications are also much wider for other mammal species in peril. Mammal reintroductions are notoriously difficult. With this research we’ll be able to investigate how this population managed to establish itself when others failed, and use the findings to aid other wild mammal reintroductions in the UK.