Land managers in Scotland have taken a major step forward in the establishment of an evidence-based approach to counting and recording mountain hare populations, it was announced today.
The new two-pronged approach to counting means that gamekeepers and land managers are all using a consistent counting methodology and can record real-time population data on an innovative app.
The app, using the EpiCollect5 platform developed by Imperial College London, is being rolled out on Scottish estates to allow collection of hare population data which can inform expert advice on hare management.
It is believed that the total current mountain hare population in Scotland stands at approximately 135,000, most of which are found on driven grouse moors. On managed grouse moors, mountain hare populations are up to 35 times higher than on unmanaged moors according to a recent study.
Dr Colin Shedden, BASC’s Scotland director, said: “This is an exciting and welcome initiative which nicely complements the existing counting methodology established by Scottish Natural Heritage, the James Hutton Institute and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
“Centralisation of data in this app will be a vital tool when it comes to understanding mountain hare population dynamics in Scotland, which in turn will inform sustainable hare management.
“Already 111 gamekeepers have received the new methodology training at 70 sites across 58 estates in Scotland.
“Initial data indicates there are an average of 13.7 hares present per kilometre on the first 27 sites surveyed. The methodology will be rolled out on grouse moors, nature reserves and other types of land, taking full advantage of its accuracy and accessibility.
“BASC will continue to champion the innovative counting methods among members in Scotland.”