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This page is no longer updated. The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute joined forces with SCRI joined forces on 1 April 2011 to create The James Hutton Institute. Please visit the James Hutton Institute website.

Friday 17th January 2020

Management of Mountain Hares

How do mountain hare populations respond to different management regimes?

Natural populations are often exploited for subsistence or commerce. However, our ability to sustain exploited populations is often inadequate due to limitations in our understanding of critical biological processes, poor demographic data, and poor decision-making frameworks. The challenging task of managing the sustainable use of any species is even more difficult for species that dwell in fragmented landscapes or exhibit cyclic or regular, high amplitude changes in density.

The sustainability of harvesting, the efficacy of culling programmes, and the impact of both on the long-term conservation status of exploited species is dependant on the interaction between natural and human caused mortality and, given the increasingly fragmented habitat that many species dwell in, the linkage (immigration and emigration) of populations.

Mountain hares are a traditional quarry species and may be an important source of revenue for sporting estate. They are also killed to control numbers on grouse moors, to protect forestry plantation, woodland regeneration, and crops. Mountain hares are an important host for sheep ticks and can in some circumstances play a key role in the transmission of the louping-ill virus, as a result they are increasingly subject to management culls as part of tick and louping-ill control programmes. Understanding how mountain hare populations respond to different levels of harvest or culling is vital for the species sustainable management.

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