Data which has been released under Freedom of Information rules has revealed for the first time the true extent of mountain hare persecution in Scotland.
Mountain hare killing in Scotland is unmonitored and unregulated during the open season, which runs from 1st August to 28th February, and until now the only estimated number of mountain hare killed was approximately 25,000 over a one-year period in 2006/7.
The new data, which was produced for the Scottish Government last year but has never been published, suggests that large-scale mountain hare killing has been routine in Scotland for many years with the total number fluctuating around an average of 25,961 and reaching as many as 37,681 in 2014. In 2015, the most recent year for which an estimate is available, 26,952 mountain hares were estimated to be killed.
The latest figure came after the Scottish Government published a joint statement with the shooting industry promising ‘voluntary restraint’ on large-scale culls, which, along with recent footage released by OneKind on a number of culls taking place in the Highlands, suggests this has had little impact on shooting estate practices.
Harry Huyton, Director of OneKind, said:
“This new data shows that large-scale mountain hare killing is a routine part of grouse moor management in Scotland, and Scottish Natural Heritage knows it. Scottish Natural Heritage should be leading the way when it comes to protecting wildlife, but instead it appears to be holding the Scottish Government back from taking action against unregulated mountain hare killing.”
The documents released under FOI also show that in response to public concerns about mountain hare persecution in February 2017, the Scottish Government asked Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) for advice on possible options to increase regulation of mountain hare control.
As part of this exercise, SNH commissioned the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust to provide analysis of the data they collected from shooting estates. This was presented to the Scottish Government in a paper that argued that this data, alongside that from the British Trust for Ornithology, suggested that the evidence for a national decline is “not conclusive” and recommended that no regulatory action be taken.
Further evidence of significant mountain hare declines in North East Scotland was disregarded because it was “at odds” with the national trend.
Harry Huyton continued:
“Evidence of significant declines in mountain hares in parts of Scotland is being disregarded, and voluntary solutions are being pursued when the evidence that this is not working is plain for all to see. Yes, our knowledge of how the mountain hare population is faring in Scotland is imperfect, but there is cause for concern and no evidence that large-scale culls are necessary in anyway. The presumption should always be in favour of protecting native wildlife, not inaction.”
Notes to editor:
- OneKind is Scotland’s leading animal campaigns charity working to end cruelty to Scotland’s animals. OneKind works to expose cruelty and persecution through investigations and research covering Scotland’s wildlife, farm animals and pets. Find out more about our work at onekind.scot
- The mountain hare investigation footage, released on 29 March 2018, can be seen here
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