Distribution of mountain hares Lepus timidus in Scotland: results from a questionnaire.

Author Patton, V., Ewald, J.A., Smith, A.A., Newey, S.J., Iason, G.R., Thirgood, S.J., & Raynor, R.
Citation Patton, V., Ewald, J.A., Smith, A.A., Newey, S.J., Iason, G.R., Thirgood, S.J., & Raynor, R. (2010). Distribution of mountain hares Lepus timidus in Scotland: results from a questionnaire. Mammal Review, 40: 313-326.

Abstract

A questionnaire survey of land owners, managers and gamekeepers was conducted in order to assess the distribution of mountain hares in Scotland, assess their current management, collate numbers harvested in 2006-07 and estimate distribution change by comparing with similar data collected in 1995-96. The land area covered by returned questionnaires was 71098km2 (90% of Scotland). Mountain hares were reported as present on 34359km2 (48%) and absent from 36739km2 (52%). Mountain hare presence was strongly associated with heather moorland managed for red grouse shooting. Moorland managed for driven grouse shooting had the highest percentage area of mountain hare presence (median 64%) followed by moorland managed for walked-up grouse shooting (median 9%) and moorland with no grouse shooting (median 0%). Approximately 25000 mountain hares were harvested in 2006-07. Based on the estimated UK population in 1995 of 350000 (range ±50%), this represents around 7% of the population (range 5-14%). Reasons given by respondents for harvesting hares were tick control (50%), sport (40%) and forestry or crop protection (10%). Comparison of the estates surveyed in both 2006-07 and 1995-96 (a total area of 20462km2) indicated no net gain or loss in hare distribution. Furthermore, there was no evidence that levels of harvest had reduced the range of mountain hares in this area. It is not possible to comment on any distribution change outside this area (58737km2). Similarly, as no data were collected on abundance, it is not possible to draw conclusions on changes in density. Regular monitoring of mountain hare distribution within Scotland is required to identify any distribution changes. Measures of abundance throughout the range are necessary to estimate the population size, investigate the relationship between harvest intensity and changes in abundance and further assess the conservation status of this UK Biodiversity Action Plan species.

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