(Image Credit: Andrew Parkinson)
A leading animal protection charity is calling for greater protection of the mountain hare, an iconic species native to Scotland. 1st August marks the first day of the open season when hare are routinely shot by shooting parties out for the thrill or by gamekeepers managing land for red grouse shooting.
OneKind director Harry Huyton said: “OneKind wants to see complete protection of the mountain hare which would mean an end to culls and commercial hunting. The indiscriminate and ruthless killing of such an iconic species is wholly unacceptable.
“Shooting hare is notoriously challenging as they are small, fast moving animals and because the shooting takes place in an environment where plenty of cover is available the risk of injury rather than a clean kill is heightened meaning many shot hares will inevitably suffer.”
The mountain hare is native to the Highlands, yet even in the Cairngorms National Park they are regularly shot. The mountain hare has become a target for gamekeepers who fear they will spread disease, reducing the amount of grouse available for commercial shooting. As a result, tens of thousands are thought to be eradicated every year, with one study finding that between March 2006 and February 2007, 24,529 mountain hares were killed in Scotland.
Highland and Islands MSP David Stewart added: “Mountain hares are wonderful animals and they need our protection from being shot. As a vital part of the eco system and heritage of the Highlands, it is a tragedy that so many are needlessly killed each year. Hopefully OneKind’s campaign, which I fully support, will be able to raise awareness and win them the greater protection they need.”
In a joint statement between the Scottish Government, SNH, Scottish Land and Estates and Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2014, a call for ‘voluntary restraint’ on large-scale culls of mountain hares was issued. Following evidence of large-scale culls taking place within the Cairngorms in early 2016, Cairngorms National Park echoed this statement, calling for ‘better data’ and asking moorland managers to ensure any culls do not threaten the conservation status of mountain hares.
Scottish wildlife charities, including the RSPB and Scottish Wildlife Trust, have called on the Scottish Government to impose a three-year ban on all mountain hare culling on grouse moors until safeguards are in place to that ensure killing is ‘sustainable’ but OneKind believes this does not go far enough and wants to see complete protection from all forms of commercial hunting and culling.
Notes to editor:
- OneKind is a Scottish charity based working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals through campaigns, research and education.
- OneKind staff and volunteers will be visiting Aviemore in the heart of the Cairngorms on Monday 1st August with a giant hare, asking members of the public to support its campaign and Care for the Mountain Hare. Images will be available on request.