Conservation status of mountain hare now ‘unfavourable’ due to shooting on grouse moors

RSPB press release (26 Aug 2019)

RSPB Scotland calls for immediate halt to mountain hare culls on back of shocking new report

Government agency statement on status of protected species and habitats shows alarming decline in species’ population

New data published by the EU revealing the condition of Scottish protected species and habitats has revealed the country’s mountain hare populations have experienced a major decline.

As a result the status of the mountain hare has been downgraded to unfavourable, meaning that special conservation action needs to be undertaken to arrest further declines and aid their recovery.

The main cause of this reclassification has been identified as hunting and game management. Lesser pressures include the impacts of agriculture and habitat loss.

[A pile of dead mountain hares, shot on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens & left to rot. Photo: contributed]

The Article 17 Report requires the Scottish Government to give information on the status of European protected habitats and species. Scottish Natural Heritage, the government’s own natural heritage advisors, have taken the action on the back of new evidence revealing catastrophic mountain hare declines particularly in areas managed for intensive driven grouse shooting activity.

RSPB Scotland have lobbied for many years to improve the protection for mountain hares in Scotland – calling for a moratorium in 2015 on the unregulated culling. Since then shocking new evidence has shown the species – a true emblem of Scotland’s wild places – has declined by over 90% in some sites managed for driven grouse shooting in spite of claims from the shooting industry that numbers remain healthy.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We have been extremely concerned about the state of our mountain hare populations for many years.

In the last 12 months new, robust evidence has shown that populations have declined precipitously, chiefly in areas managed for driven grouse shooting.  This reclassification to unfavourable status demands urgent action.

Duncan continued: “The recognition from Scottish Government’s own advisors that the mountain hare population is now unfavourable means that increased protection of this iconic species is needed. Self-regulation and claimed ‘voluntary restraint’ from culling by the industry has been nothing short of a pitiful failure.

We urge the Scottish Government to take action where the industry has not and to urgently increase the protection of mountain hares in Scotland until their status is secured.


Meanwhile, the latest petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting is heading for its target of 100,000 signatures. Please sign here.

19 thoughts on “Conservation status of mountain hare now ‘unfavourable’ due to shooting on grouse moors”

  1. From a statement issued by the SGA last year ‘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. ’
    I assume then then that last years dismissal of the count ( claims of using bad/undetermined counting methods) cannot be repeated this year, from the SGA’s own statement !!
    Let’s see what diatribe they will pour out this year in face of the latest figures.

  2. Hopefully we are all witnessing the dying days of this evil corrupt and barbaric pastime. We are all surely looking forward to the day when the Glorious 12th is but a dim and distant bad memory.

  3. “the status of the mountain hare has been downgraded to unfavourable.” I can not find a link to this report. I have found confirmation of what government needs to do. I assume that it may be SNH who has to make the determination of status. Can anyone help please?

  4. A statement by the Scottish Gamekeepers published on Monday 13th August 2018 .. slightly over a year ago… dismisses the late Dr. Adam Watson’s, the Eastern Cairngorms foremost ecologist. in regard to mountain hare numbers.
    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.
    This indicates that anecdotal evidence by those with huge vested interests should not be considered when reaching decisions about mountain hares, ravens, beavers, badgers, foxes or, indeed, anything concerning culling or ecological adaptions in relation to, in this instance, grouse welfare or numbers. It is not with the interests of our ecology that they make these misleading statements to the public … but in the interests of the estates bank balance and the individual game keepers status/career path.
    The discrepancy between their accounts of mountain hare welfare and those of the scientific community should be seen as the clinching bit of evidence that there are no such things as “joint initiatives” between the driven grouse lobby and conservationists … only attempts by them to attain and spin information to increase their profits with no consideration given at all to the long term health of our environment and all in it.
    The SNP led National Government in Holyrood should accept this and develop policy accordingly.

  5. The Lammermuir Shoot is offering rough shooting days including “blue rabbits” in the species available to shoot.
    Are they trying to duck the Mountain Hare label? Or do the Lammermuir Shoot’s gamekeepers go around dyeing the rabbits blue as a novelty for the jaded shot?

  6. What appals me, is that a supposedly advanced-thinking country such as Scotland, should still have an out-of-date behind-the-scenes regime that has dominated what can live and die on so much of the natural landscape, and has done so for centuries. From my fifty active years of fund-raising, campaigning, project work, humane education, and on the streets of our towns and cities, I have witnessed a growing deep concern over the welfare of animals and species conservation, among the various communities and individuals that make up our society. Along with it, has come a detestation for blood sports, and the opening of eyes to the depravity towards wildlife that may get in the way of the shooters of game birds, who have sanctioned the inordinate slaughter of any “threat” species, to their beloved game birds, by gamekeepers and willing volunteers. A whole charismatic image was developed for such slayers of Mountain Hares, Birds of Prey and other “vermin”, by giving them the role of being “guardians of the countryside”. Bulldozed roads up mountains; empty skies of Birds of Prey; Crows, Ravens, and other species persecuted; Foxes and Badgers snared or poisoned, and game shooting touted as important for rural management of the environment, to maintain an industry that is a supposedly essential component of the economy, without considering the humane alternatives at the door. All of our Governments have been mesmerised by this powerful and corrupting lobby, with its alleged influence in ensuring an easy passage through the courts for malefactors against the laws protecting wildlife, especially Hen Harriers and Eagles. Our Environment Ministers have had restricted powers to be really effective, and one of them at present, seems to have Marvel Comic powers of appearing on every scene requiring humane attention towards wildlife – fish farms, shooting estates, the trawling industry; transport of live animals; golf courses threatening protected areas; certain farm practices; spraying forests with pesticides and wiping out rare insect species; developments in the Cairngorm National Park and cutting down Scots Pine to extend a car park, and whatever, to ensure that inimical practices would prevail.

    It is disgusting that this banal “industry” or “sport” has been allowed into our schools to perpetuate their sanitised version of their importance in maintaining the countryside. What is required is putting this genii back in its bottle and not able to morph itself into some form of acceptability/respectability. Children and the public should see exactly what is represented here, and that is piles of corpses of Mountain Hares and stink pits full of representatives of most forms of Scottish wildlife. The whole planet is under threat from forest fires, along with poaching and trophy shooting endangering wildlife on a large scale, e.g. shooting Puffins in Iceland for £3000, or a Lion for £10,000 on a canned shoot. Sharks are on the danger list, along with many other “sports” fish.
    Scotland has a part of play in reducing this word carnage, and for the reduction in the powers of the game shooting industry, and for a whole new programme of conservation drawn up and set in motion, involving more public involvement.

  7. An own goal of epic proportions but one that also stands to remind us of the sense of entitlement and untouchability that seems to pervade the driven grouse shooting community.

  8. I wonder how significant this might be to the shooters. A natural population of mountain hares could be a food source, attractive to the larger raptors, whose presence the shooters wish to minimise.

  9. I have just returned from a two week holiday in the Canadian Rockies. Wildlife abounds in their National and Provincial National Parks. Elk, Moose, Wild Goats, Black and Grizzly bears roaming the countryside and seen by the roadsides feeding on berries at this time of the year.
    The philosophy of what the Canadians are doing in their countryside is such a contrast to what we have to exist with.
    Of course no grouse moors, just forests, meadows and mountains all around, free from ‘guardians of the countryside’
    Birds of prey are tolerated and enhance the wildlife watching experience of the visitors. All of the parks abound with tourists in their hundreds drawn in by such a magnificent country.

    How sad to come home to such an impoverished country like Scotland.

  10. Why do you people continually lie? The rubbish about hares and grouse all of which easily discredited shows you all up for the ignorant jealous low life’s you are! Time to wake up and get those chips off your shoulders! For instance where did all successfully reared harriers come from? Keepered grouse moors! Where is most diverse wildlife? Keepered grouse moors! If like Packham and his mates you get a kick out of seeing wildlife eaten alive by tooth claw and hooked beak carry on with your blinkered ways! You will end up with nothing!

    1. How amusing to see that you finish a rant, which is basically a list of falsehoods, by revealing your true agenda of twisted resentment of raptors. Well done for showing us just what imbeciles you people are!

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