Monday, 13 August 2018

SGA STATEMENT: MOUNTAIN HARES

With reference to a news item on mountain hare, focusing on a paper by Adam Watson and released by RSPB at the start of the grouse season, the SGA has released the following media statement.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “This work is largely at odds with what is being seen on the ground in grouse moor areas, where hare numbers- in good breeding seasons- remain very, very high, sometimes reaching densities of up to 200 hares per sq km.
"It will be helpful to scrutinise the study's methods and consistency given such a discrepancy with the current reality.
“Many of the gamekeepers in the survey area didn't see the author undertake counts, even when they were working in these areas daily, and the study's methods have now been superseded by the new science conducted by GWCT and James Hutton Institute for SNH, which was published in January this year. (1)
“A lot of tax payers’ money was spent conducting that work on how to count hares as accurately as possible and gamekeepers are committed to adopting this in 2018 onwards so the true picture emerges as to where mountain hares may be struggling. 
“Data held by GWCT shows the number of hares taken on grouse moors shows no overall discernible trend since 1954, despite the claims by those seeking to legislate against grouse shooting that culls have been escalated to protect grouse (2). The average annual hare cull of 25 000 represents only 7 percent of the estimated population.
“Whilst on Scottish grouse moors hare numbers remain amongst the highest in Europe, we know there are campaigning wildlife charities, looking after hundreds of sites, with suitable habitat but no mountain hares at all. That revelation may shock and will become clearer to the public and government when the new counting methods are widely adopted, which is what the SGA is calling for.
“Scotland-wide counts of areas where hares were once present will also show exactly how many thousands of acres of the species’ preferred heather habitats have been given over to tree planting and regeneration in areas such as the Cairngorms and what impact this has had on the conservation of the species.”


  1. https://www.snhpresscentre.com/news/new-research-determines-the-best-ways-to-count-scottish-mountain-hares
  2. GWCT graph (below).