Unconfirmed reports of mountain hare culls on several Scottish grouse moors

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.

20 thoughts on “Unconfirmed reports of mountain hare culls on several Scottish grouse moors”

  1. I’ll settle for The Environment Cabinet Secretary’s resignation.
    We have tolerated years of inaction and our wildlife is suffering as a result.

  2. This was inevitable without an interim protection order in place. I should imagine the rate of killing this year will be higher than before . Will there be any mountain hares to protect next year? So sad, so grim.

  3. By saying we will protecting mountain hares but not yet, they are basically telling the keepers to exterminate them while they have the chance. I wrote to my 8MSPs. Only one response so far from one Tory assuring me that they are cooperating with the Scottish government blah blah blah. Pathetic and appalling. I’m disgusted with the lot of them.

  4. Voluntary restraint! They only way to restrain the grouse lobby would have been an interim protection order or to apply physical restraints to the shooters. The government ought to fully understand this, yet again we have to stand by and watch the SNP government behave like a school debating society and do nowt but wring hands. Time for a few resignations methinks.

  5. Expecting cooperation from the DGM Lobby is similar to expecting the DGM owners to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Their silence prior to the opening of the mountain hare season confirmed this before the opening date.
    Given this attitude, which has been present for as long as anyone can remember, then negotiations seem futile in the same way that negotiating issues surrounding the illegal persecution of raptors has proved.
    It could be the case that environmental issues are best served by increasing the number of Green Party representatives at the coming elections. They are far better placed to get things done than the SNP appear to be. Do not forget that it was the well times intervention of a Green MSP that has got us htis far in relation to mountain hares.

  6. I wrote to my SNP MSP regarding Scot Gov inaction since the vote was passed. Not a word of a reply. Just about sums up gov apathy.

    1. It is apparent where SNP loyalties lie and it is not where many of the voters thought. Landowners are calling the tune.

    2. They will tell you they are concentrating their efforts on dealing with the Corona Virus, a laudable claim. Elsewhere on the net there is a groundswell of criticism over other news of actions by them. Trying to stay non-political, I’ll spare the details, but I personally believe it’s a matter of survival for party and key figures.

      Under these circumstances pressure must continue.

  7. If it transpires that killing of Mountain Hares has continued as previously (and even more so if at an increased level) then, regardless of the legal niceties, it well be seen as a very deliberate and arrogant snub both to public opinion and the will of the Scottish Parliament. In such a case then the message must be hammered home to the wider public and politicians that the industry either cannot or will not act with restraint and cannot be trusted to act responsibly without firm legal constraints. Their hubris may yet presage their ultimate downfall.

  8. I suspect two reasons for this ‘delay’:

    (i) As I’ve said before, it’s not an SNP/Scottish Government policy/amendment*, so it will have been shuffled to the slow lane and given no urgency.

    (ii) A second reason may well be the sheer lack of time to implement a licensing policy after the amendment was passed, so the delay enables the admin to be put in place.

    I’m not hugely hopeful of a licensing scheme anyway – you only need to look at the licensed ‘cull’ of the Tayside beaver population to see how easy it is for what appears to be a conservation victory to turn out to be pyrrhic.

  9. The ‘cull’ in Inverness shire was in fact a bench rest rifle shooting event. Perhaps you should amend your post to indicate this.

  10. I suspect there is an element of psychology at work here, something that may not have been a priority previously has now become one, as soon as there was mention of a ban, and nothing to do with the hares themselves; I fear the same may apply with licensing, imposition may lead to a redoubling of efforts to persecute raptors with careful removal of evidence, as retaliation/deliberate provocation to conservationists…

  11. I doubt if licencing will make any real difference. We campaigned for decades to protect seals and what we got was a self policed licencing scheme to allow filthy floating factory fish pharms and salmon netting stations to keep on shooting. I’m sure the Tayside beavers are pleased to know they are now being shot and left to die by people with official Scot Gov licences. Unless shooting threatens to wipe out hares in a given area the licencing scheme will not curb culling. We cannot get Scot Gov to hold even a consultation on the principal of having General Licenses allowing people to cull unlimited numbers of several species of native wild birds to protect captive bred roadkill (pheasants). We need a new Government willing to cull the culling mentality within SNH and Marine Scotland.

  12. Shame on the Scottish Government! I wrote and complained about the delays in getting the protection and received a totally unacceptable reply.

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