BASC has issued the following statement about the culling of mountain hares in Scotland in response to a paper released today.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC Scotland director, said that while the research might show some localised decline, generally speaking mountain hares do very well on land managed for grouse shooting and they benefit from the associated habitat management and predator control.
He said: “While there is an emotive concern over culling of mountain hares in Scotland, there are perfectly legitimate reasons for the continuation of culling of hares in Scotland by shooting.
“The current level of culling is about fourteen per cent of the population per annum and this should, in most years, be sustainable.
“It is known that the mountain hare population does cycle and while the cause of this cycling is unknown it could be related to disease such as parasitic infection, nutrition and predation. During periods when the population density is high the level of culling is often increased, in a form of adaptive management.”
BASC recognises that there are a number of reasons why land managers in upland Scotland cull mountain hares. These include protecting vegetation from over-grazing and reducing impacts on tree regeneration. Culls are undertaken by shooting, recognising the restrictions imposed by the Conservation (Natural Habitats) Regulations and the close season (1 March – 31 July). These restrictions are introduced to prevent over-exploitation and for welfare reasons.
Dr Shedden added: “While the long-term trends for mountain hare populations are not known the greatest productivity and density is commonly associated with well-managed grouse moors.”
Land managers can follow the advice contained in the Mountain Hare Management Guidance as well as respecting the 2014 call for voluntary restraint over large culls.
Eoghan Cameron, BASC vice-chairman, said: “BASC recognises the ongoing need for the management culling of mountain hares which will take place this coming winter, where appropriate, and advises all who participate to follow the Code of Good Shooting Practice and to ensure that all shot hares are handled appropriately as a valued food.”