If Alison Johnstone MSP is concerned about receding hares (MSP hits out over ‘horrific’ mountain hare cull, August 1) she need not worry about this on grouse moors. The shooting of mountain hares is a sustainable activity in Scotland and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has 50 years mountain hare data to underpin this fact.
Moorland, managed for red grouse, produces the most favourable mountain hare environment in Europe, with numbers up to 10 times greater than anywhere else. We believe that the average of around 25,000 hares culled per annum represents in the region of just 7 per cent of their total population – or a sustainable harvest.
Mountain hares do face threats, and habitat loss, primarily to woodland expansion, improved grassland or withdrawal of management – all of which are major concerns for their future success. Most policymakers rightly recognise that the species benefits from active moorland management and that loss of habitat is a far more important threat on their conservation status in the long-term than an annual cull.
Large numbers of hares have been shot every year for over half a century. What we hope will be forthcoming, following the Scottish Ministers’ commissioned review of grouse moor management, is support for a widespread coordinated approach to counting mountain hares which will safeguard any possible threat to their local populations across a range of habitats.
We must be careful giving credence to the need for the regulation of the shooting of mountain hares, or an outright ban, on the perceptions of organisations and individuals who have an interest in supressing grouse moor management. It is this very system that supports and promotes our most healthy mountain hare populations.
GWCT Scotland director
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