By Ian Carse
This is an extract from the RSPBs Winter 2020 copy of Scotland News
In June of this year the Scottish Parliament voted to increase the protection for mountain hares in Scotland, effectively making them a protected species.
This was a landmark vote as it marks only the second time in Scottish history that a species has moved from being the quarry (huntable) list to protected species status, the first being Capercaillie.
For RSPB Scotland this was the culmination of a long engagement on the issue, including securing a closed season to protect breeding mountain hares in 2011, building a coalition of 10 conservation organisations calling for a moratorium on mountain hare culling in 2015, and the publication of a vital scientific paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology in 2019 showing severe declines in the mountain hare population.
This level of protection was required to stop the large scale, unregulated culls that have become routine management on some moorlands managed for driven grouse shooting. In these areas, thousands of hares are killed annually in a misguided attempt to protect grouse stocks from a disease spread by ticks.
While the new protection is warmly welcomed the job is not yet finished and legislation will take time to implement but this, for nature lovers and those concerned to help the environment and build a better world post Covid 19, it’s very good news.