Sunday, 10 November 2013

MOUNTAIN HARES AND GROUSE MOORS: THE REALITY

Please see the following full response from The SGA to the story on mountain hares written by Rob Edwards in today's Sunday Herald. This full response was given to the writer but was not used for 'reasons of space'. Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: "In 2006/2007, a study by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)
 contrasted the number of mountain hares found on intensively managed grouse moors with those on less intensively managed moors and, finally, on estates where there was no grouse interest at all and, therefore, little or no management. "What was found was that mountain hares were found on 64 per cent of the area intensively managed for grouse, 9 per cent on less intensively managed grouse moors and on estates where there were no grouse interest, mountain hares were absent. "The truth, therefore, is that legal removal of abundant predators by gamekeepers benefits mountain hares as well as red grouse and ground nesting birds. Indeed, the inability to produce mountain hares above subsistence level in other areas is the bigger and more worrying story in terms of the long-term success of the species. "There is a population of mountain hares in the highlands which is relatively high compared to anywhere else in Europe but there is no denying that there are issues and The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is aware of these. Tick numbers have increased dramatically in the last ten years and hares carry tick and louping ill virus, helping to perpetuate the disease. Louping ill virus produces high mortality in red grouse and can cause potentially fatal brain swelling in humans called encephalitis. "As there is no ready alternative, suppressing the numbers of mountain hares on grouse moors (where numbers are comparatively much higher) is the only route open to land managers. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association proposed an acaricide treatment experiment for deer, sheep and hares some time ago which was rejected by the then Scottish Government because a special license would have been required to treat wild animals. "Clearly, for the benefit of hares, grouse and humans, more work needs to be done at this level on progressing vaccination and acaricide treatments and it is something The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is progressing with partners and readily supports."