The season for killing mountain hares in Scotland opened on Saturday (1st August) despite a recent Parliamentary vote to provide more protection for this species.
In this particular case, greater protection (i.e. those who want to kill mountain hares will need to apply for a licence) will not be available until the Scottish Government has undertaken a consultation to consider the terms and conditions of any such licencing scheme.
Meanwhile, while everyone waits for the Scottish Government to conduct that consultation, the shooting season has opened and the Government has ignored campaigners’ pleas to offer interim protection to those mountain hares.
Instead, the Environment Cabinet Secretary has, with a straight face, called on the grouse-shooting industry to practice ‘voluntary restraint’ (see here).
So it came as no surprise to see a number of (as yet unconfirmed) reports on Twitter yesterday that mountain hare culling had begun, apparently on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths and a grouse moor in the Angus Glens.
Under the current legislation, these estates are entitled to kill as many mountain hares as they like, without needing permission or a licence, and there is no obligation for them to record or report the number of hares killed.
Nor is there any obligation to report what they do with those shot hares. Some will end up on sale for human consumption (complete with embedded toxic poisonous lead shot, yum yum), others will simply be discarded, and some will be used to bait traps and stink pits to lure other wildlife to a gruesome death.
[Shot mountain hares strung up in a chilling larder, screen-grabbed from a controversial feature on Countryfile (2018) showing mountain hares being shot on a Scottish grouse moor]
UPDATE August 2020: Neither of these unconfirmed reports have been substantiated and there is no evidence that mountain hares were being culled in the Monadhliaths or the Angus Glens at the beginning of August 2020.