The Brown Hare.

Mission Statement. We would like to get an idea of the distribution of  Brown Hares, both within the survey parishes andaround the immediate boundary, to estimate numbers and identify further threats.

Background (from Rodney Hale of the Brown Hare preservation society). The Brown Hare Lepus europaeus evolved in Europe, but probably did not radiate northwards before Britain was cut off from the mainland by the English Channel, about 7,500 years ago.  Brown Hare stretching by R HayleProbably introduced by the Romans around 2,000 years ago, the brown hare has won the affection of generations of British people.  Its grace and beauty have become symbolic of our countryside.

During the early 1900s there were around 4.5 million Brown Hares in Britain and their boxing antics were a familiar sight to many a countryside walker.  But since then the population has plummeted by 80%.  In the South-West the brown hare is almost a rarity, although pockets of abundance do exist.

Intensification of agriculture has been a major factor in the Brown Hare’s decline.   Increased field sizes have resulted in the loss of 150,000 miles of hedgerows since the Second World War - depriving hares of an important food source.  Hares prefer wild grasses and herbs to cultivated forms - grasses predominating in the winter and herbs in the summer.
Although capable of phenomenal acceleration to 45 mph,  hares have a habit of “sitting tight” to the ground when a predator approaches - taking flight as a last resort.   This makes them vulnerable to being killed by agricultural machinery.  In the dairying areas of the South-West, modern, fast silage cutting machines take a heavy toll of leverets - waiting for their mothers to return at dusk to give them their single daily feed.  Higher stocking rates and increased stock movement between fields leads to hares being disturbed and deprived of their daytime “lying up” sites.  They may then move to fields destined to be cut for silage

Concern over the Brown Hare’s status has led to the Government’s Biodiversity Steering Group to propose a Biodiversity Action Plan to aid its population recovery.  The aim is to double the winter population of the brown hare by the year 2010.

Web-links. Brown Hare Preservation Society   UK Biodiversity Action Plan for the Brown Hare
Irish Hare  an online resource about the Irish hare and issues that affect its conservation and survival

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