Slaughtering mountain hares to increase grouse numbers

A mountain hare in a snare - in Scotland a licence  must now be obtained from Scottish Natural Heritage to allow the snaring of mountain hares

A mountain hare in a snare – in Scotland a licence must now be obtained from Scottish Natural Heritage to allow the snaring of mountain hares

I’ve just read Rob Edwards’ article in the Sunday Herald entitled ‘The scandal of landowners shooting thousands of mountain hares every year’.   I must say that I totally agree with him. I know of several parts of Tayside where there used to be a great population of mountain hares, but now there are very few to be seen. They have been snared and shot purportedly to keep down tick numbers and to prevent louping ill, which adversely affects grouse. While I have no argument with the fact that mountain hares carry ticks – as do sheep and deer – I think it is totally wrong to try to eliminate a species simply to allow higher numbers of another species: grouse.

I know of one Tayside estate where not just mountain hares but deer as well were almost wiped out in the interest of grouse management. Worse, the deer and hares were left where they were shot with no effort even to bring them into the food chain. I and many country folks, including gamekeepers, thought this was a scandal, but knowing about this activity and finding evidence to bring anyone before a court are two different things. The annihilation of the hares was legal, though hardly moral, but the deer were being illegally shot using a spotlight and some of them out of season as well.

On another estate I was alerted to the mass snaring of mountain hares by a neighbouring gamekeeper, who strongly disapproved of the practice, even more so when some of the snares were set on the march fence. Like me, this gamekeeper had no objection to the thinning out of a white hare population where it is necessary but suspected the hares caught would be going into a hole somewhere.  Even being used for dog food would be better but I for one hate to see animals killed and not either sold for food or eaten by the person taking them.

There is no doubt that grouse shooting contributes to the Scottish economy and helps to keep country folks in a job, but striving for a monoculture of grouse on an upland estate, where any creature that in any way threatens grouse numbers is removed, is short sighted and in my view is doing incredible harm to the shooting industry.


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