Mountain hares and mobile apps – who would have thought!
The GWCT’s mountain hare count training guidance took on a new dimension this autumn with the introduction of an additional information-recording option. We’ve already used the Epicollect5 app, developed by Imperial College London, for recording data around our demonstration farm at Auchnerran in Aberdeenshire, so it was a straightforward exercise to design a mobile version of the mountain hare count card based on the current paper version in use. We outlined how to download, register and use the app during training sessions held in the Highlands between September and October. The GWCT maintains the registration of data collectors so that we can link this with count sites, maps, previous records and other information sources, including the National Gamebag Census.
Screenshots from the Epicollect mountain hare count card app.
To date, over 100 gamekeepers and estate staff have undertaken training at 70 sites, across 58 estates in Scotland, from the Lammermuirs in South East Scotland, to the Highlands. The training is based on SNH’s recommended approach to assessing mountain hare populations, using lamps to count the hares in specific tetrads at night.
Already, we are starting to receive counts via the app and are encouraged by the number of keepers using this approach. We hope that, over time, this will become the default means of recording numbers and making a return, removing the need to write out count cards and send them in for further input. Most importantly, this should enable us to build up a prompt, accurate picture of the number of mountain hares across all locations undertaking counts. The willingness shown by gamekeepers in training for and applying robust count methods underlines their commitment to evidence-led species management.
Mountain Hare on a count transect on a moor in Deeside, Aberdeenshire.
The possibilities exist for extending use of the Epicollect system to easily capture and share a growing range of information requirements for moorland management best practice purposes, and we will be exploring these opportunities for making the recording of data that little bit easier to carry out!