Mountain Hare’s on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular?

Posted on 23rd July 2023 by Peter Dale and Peter Guthrie
Mountain Hare Rewilding?
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Rewilding seems to be the in thing at the moment, so how about returning the Mountain Hare to the Peninsular, for a number of reasons which I will explain later

This first passage taken from Saving Britian’s Wildlife reads as follows:

Mountain hares are indigenous to Britain, unlike the other lagomorphs, the rabbit and the Brown hare, which were introduced by man. (We have to blame the Romans for that) Although elsewhere in its broad circumpolar distribution, the mountain hare mainly occupies Boreal Forest. In Britain it is associated with heather moorlands, particularly those which are managed by burning in strips for red grouse. It is native to the Highlands of Scotland but has been introduced to the Southern Uplands, the Peak District and on some Scottish Islands including Hoy (Orkney), Mainland (Shetland), Mull (If Mull wishes to surreptitiously introduce Pine Martens for the benefit of the tourist, and quite possibly from Ardnamurchan why not return the favour) and Skye.

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The indiscriminate shooting of Mountain Hare in the Cairngorms to protect the Red Grouse shooting grounds is something that troubles us greatly as passionate wildlife folk (Peter Dale: Or Managers, as in my book if it means pulling the trigger at times, so be it.)

We have a huge Golden Eagle population across the peninsula, which according to the experts is failing in its production of young due to the lack of natural food sources (the same experts also take young from the area for release in other parts of the country) but few rabbits and hare as a key food source for the birds. Why not relocate the mountain hare to the peninsula rather than cull?

One of the main food sources for Golden Eagles are rabbits and brown hares and these are important species in the food chain and this element is critical for good production of chicks and fledged birds. As the only native species, we would be keen to see Mountain Hare and obviously less keen on the introduced species. In order to maintain and improve the population, increasing the key prey species allows the population to thrive naturally rather than rely on supplementary feeding.

In other areas, such as the Cairngorms, Golden Eagle’s primary food will be Mountain Hare, but they are naturally adaptable and have to be on the peninsula as one of the most important secondary sources is game birds, such as Red and Black Grouse (Don’t forget Ptarmigan) and we don’t have many of those either.

Golden Eagle is just one species that needs these animals. Another that needs this element in the food chain is the Scottish Wildcat and while these may be extremely rare, even on the peninsula, to help their recovery at some point they will need this food source.

Once reasonable numbers have been achieved, this provides a steady food source year-round, rather than the boom-and-bust approach with gralloch and winter losses

How do we go about doing it?

So, we’ve covered the why it would make sense, but how do you go about doing it? Methods must be humane and care should be taken when finding ranges.

There are many ways of trapping Hare, but as an example, the use of an old method such as long netting may cause limited stress to the animal, but there isn’t really any method that is perfect for such an activity and surely, it’s better than shooting them? Relocating animals will allow us to build a viable population across the peninsula to benefit all of our predator

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About Mountain Hare
  • Lepus Timidus. Brown in Summer and White with black tips on ears in Winter
  • Length: 45-56cm
  • Larger than Rabbits, but smaller than Brown Hares
  • Mountain Hare's don't dig burrows like rabbits, but live in depressions in the ground
  • Found on Heathland and Moorland
  • You can see them all year, but easiest in Spring when they still have the white coat
More about Morvern
Despite being one of the most sparsely populated parts of the UK, there have been people on Morvern since Neolithic times, with numerous cairns and standing stones dotted around. Lochaline was the site of one of the very first churches in Scotland, with St. Columba establishing a church in the late 6th Century after working on Iona. Morvern has huge tracks of land with no population at all and this enables the wildlife to thrive. One of the most exciting recent developments is the reestablishing of Altantic rainforest along the River Aline catchment, with a large area being given to habitat restoration. Another is the native oyster project led by Caolas, which aims to rebuild the native oyster population in Loch Aline that is so important in supporting the rich biodiversity. For more information on any of these, please contact us.