Cairngorms Park Authority call for restraint in culling hares

Over 99 per cent of the UK's mountain hare is found in Scotland and gamekeeprs have been helping to count their numbers

Over 99 per cent of the UK's mountain hare is found in Scotland and gamekeeprs have been helping to count their numbers

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The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has released a statement after a petition was started, calling for restraint in the culling of mountain hares.

The CNPA released a statement after a Sunday newspaper claimed landowners were breaking an agreement to end the mass killing of the animals.

The mountain hare can be legally shot for sport, and are also culled as part of the management of the grouse moors.

The hares carry sheep ticks, which can infect the game birds with the louping ill virus.

CNPA called the parks population of hares “good” but asked land owners to ensure that the culls were carried out correctly. They believed that the Sunday newspaper had been witnessing one of these controlled annual culls.

The blue hares are Britain’s only native hare and are thought to have been here since the Ice Age.

The heather moorland, which is managed for grouse shooting, provides the best habitat for the mountain hare, according to the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

SNH have voiced their concern over the large scale culling of the hares, because of concerns about the conservation status of the species.

The online petition has over 11,700 signatures so far.

Hamish Trench, director of conservation and visitor experience at CNPA, said the park authority had also previously set out its concerns about the balance of moorland species and habitat management.

“Observation suggests there is a good population of mountain hares in the Cairngorms and the managed moorlands provide a good habitat for them.

“We back the current research project which is working with estates in the national park to establish better counts.”

Mr Trench also said: “In this case we understand the hare cull was part of a planned annual management cull.

“We recognise the public concern about the scale of culls and this emphasises the need for good information on populations and restraint in line with SNH’s advice in the meantime.

“In particular we expect moorland managers to ensure any culls do not threaten the conservation status of mountain hares.”

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