Date lodged: 12 May 2016
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the culling of mountain hares on estates practising driven grouse shooting.
Answered by: Roseanna Cunningham 24 May 2016
The Scottish Government does not support large, indiscriminate culls of mountain hares in Scotland and recognises the concerns that have been expressed about the status of mountain hare populations in Scotland. The Scottish Government acknowledges that mountain hares are a legitimate quarry species and that there may be local requirements to control mountain hares to protect gamebirds and young trees. Any control of mountain hares should be undertaken in accordance with obligations under the EU Habitats Directive.
Given the concerns about possible over-exploitation, information on the management of hares has been reviewed by independent experts from the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Scientific Advisory Committee. This review was published in October 2015 and is available at: http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1765931.pdf. The review identified the need for improved monitoring and data to assess national trends of mountain hare populations.
This work is underway in the form of a collaborative four year study (2014-17) involving SNH and scientists in the James Hutton Institute and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, on trialling various methods of counting hares. The study has the aim of developing a reliable and cost-effective means of assessing mountain hare population density.
SNH is also working with Scottish Land & Estates to encourage greater transparency in the reasons why estates cull hares and to encourage estates to collaborate and develop a more measured and coordinated approach to sustainable hare management.