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Mountain Hare (Blue Hare)

Also referred to as the 'blue hare', Mountain Hares used to be widespread across the British Isles before the introduction of the brown hare by the Romans.

Competition for habitat and food forced the Mountain Hare to move to higher ground. The species is also distributed across Northern Europe, parts of Russia, Iceland and Greenland.

Today, the core of the UK’s mountain hare population is restricted to the Highlands of Scotland. The creature is famous for its ability to change its coat from brown to white with the seasons providing camouflage on the open hill all year round.

Mountain Hares thrive on moors actively managed for grouse shooting. Heather burning and intensive vermin control are thought to be the main reasons for this. Numbers of mountain hare can vary greatly from year to year, so it is important for moorland managers to monitor these numbers and adjust the annual cull accordingly. Hare numbers can even vary between different areas within the Highlands. During years of increased numbers, parasite levels can thrive with negative effects on the health of the overall hare population and other moorland species such as the red grouse.

The Mountain Hare is not well documented as a sporting quarry and today many people wrongly assume they are protected. In prolific years mountain hare can be hunted.

Statement for media enquiries. Please read the below before requesting comment. 

  1. Viscount have NOT actually ‘sold’ a single mountain hare hunt package since becoming operational, and in particular since 2014 when the package was initially made available on the website.
  2. Estates where hunting occurs in Scotland are NOT managed by Viscount, but the respective landowner. Viscount cannot comment on management nor conservation actions or policies on properties or estates that it neither owns nor manages. Please refer to Scottish Land & Estates regarding land management e.g. http://www.scottishlandandestates.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4205:call-from-wildlife-organisations-for-ban-on-mountain-hare-culls-is-heavy-handed-and-ill-informed&catid=71:national&Itemid=107
  3. Viscount removed the mountain hare (and in fact all sporting offers) package from the website on the 24th of July 2017 after its presence was pointed out by OneKind. It was an administrative oversight that the offer still appeared on the website as Viscount changed its business focus in early 2016 to that of sustainable venison provision and not that of offering sporting packages at its core. Viscount stated the above to OneKind who neglected to mention any of this in the published report, instead opting for sensationalist and accusatory comment.
  4. With regard to the actual numbers of mountain hare population in Scotland, Viscount repeated the most recent recent research-backed information available on mountain hare population estimates in Scotland, as published by Scottish Natural Heritage: SNH Commissioned Report 278: The distribution of Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus) in Scotland (2006/07), which quotes mountain hare population estimates as follows: “While the UK population estimate of 350,000 is the best estimate available Harris et al. (1995) cautioned that it could be up to either a 50% overestimate or underestimate. Mountain hare populations show large annual changes in abundance with 50% of game bag records showing high amplitude cyclic dynamics; population density can change more than 10 fold over the cause of a cycle (Davey & Aebischer 2008; Newey et al. 2007). Comparing the level of take in 2006/07 to a 1995 population estimate assumes that the UK population has not changed appreciably over the proceeding 10 years which represents an assumption we are unable to verify.” Source: http://www.snh.gov.uk/publications-data-and-research/publications/search-the-catalogue/publication-detail/?id=968
  5. Viscount cannot comment on whether the mountain hare population in Scotland is in decline or increase, nor whether this increase or decline is due to land management, culling, or documented cyclical mountain hare population fluctuation and does not have an opinion on anecdotal estimates without authoritative published factual research backing. Viscount is not a research authority and not affiliated with or in the employ any organization, research body, wildlife trust or charitable foundation that claims authority on the population numbers of mountain hare in Scotland. Please defer to official mountain hare estimates e.g. http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-species/which-and-how/mammals/hares/ which states “Local mountain hare population sizes can fluctuate widely. Both species of hare are quarry species and may be legally controlled. In the case of mountain hares, control usually takes place on managed grouse moors to reduce tick numbers, or to protect young trees, but the impact of culling on mountain hare populations is not well understood. Whilst reviewing the management of mountain hares we have agreed an interim position on this issue with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and Scottish Land & Estates. Research is also underway in partnership with GWCT and the James Hutton Institute to trial methods of assessing mountain hare numbers to provide population density estimates. With this knowledge we can then improve our understanding of the overall status of mountain hares and the sustainability of hare management measures.”
  6. As a result of continued media enquiries resulting from the OneKind report, Viscount have now also removed the previous statement of population numbers on this page. 
  7. Viscount does not condone or encourage hunting for simply the act thereof – the business has always traded on a sustainability and conservation platform, and continues to do so, as is evident on the website and Facebook pages. Viscount operates within the law, and in particular within the boundaries of licensing as it applies currently to the hunting of winged and small game and deer in the United Kingdom. 

Report No278.pdf

Viscount Sporting Estates Ltd are aware that certain charities and conservation organisations have called for a moratorium on the culling and / or hunting of Mountain Hare since March 2016. 

Due to the current evaluation study on the Mountain Hare population in Scotland, hunting experiences will exclude Mountain Hare shooting as of the 2017 UK hunting season. 

Our position on mountain hare shooting remains within the boundaries as set-out by law and firmly in line with the current position of the Scottish Wildlife Trust - please see the Trust's official position in the PDF and read more here >