Press release from Scottish Government (27th January 2021)
Greater protection for iconic Scottish mountain hares
New licensing regime to take effect from March
Mountain hares in Scotland are to be given greater protection under regulations introduced to the Scottish Parliament today.
From 1 March 2021, it will be illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take mountain hares at any time unless a licence is obtained.
Previously a licence would be required during the closed season, this will now be the case throughout the whole year.
The new licensing arrangement will be overseen by NatureScot, with licences issued only under certain circumstances, such as concerns for public health or protection of crops and timber.
[These bloodied corpses were left to rot in a pile on a sporting estate in the Angus Glens. The mass culling of mountain hares on grouse moors will no longer be permitted from 1st March 2021. Photo by an RPUK contributor]
The changes are part of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 which will also see new licensing requirements for those breeding puppies, kittens or infant rabbits, as well as introducing ‘Lucy’s Law to end the third party selling of dogs and cats in Scotland under the age of six months.
Natural Environment Minister Ben Macpherson said:
“Protecting Scotland’s wild animals in their natural environment is a key priority for this Scottish Government. Mountain hares are an iconic Scottish species and it is right that we protect them.
“Through the Animals and Wildlife Act 2020, we are taking action to safeguard the welfare of animals in Scotland and preserve our precious natural heritage for future generations to come.”
Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s Head of Wildlife Management said:
“Mountain hares – our only native hare – are an important and valued species in the Scottish hills. This increased protection will help ensure healthy populations of mountain hares can be found and enjoyed in the mountains, while giving some recourse when there is a need to prevent damage being caused to saplings or sensitive habitats. We are also working with several partner organisations to continue to improve our understanding of mountain hare populations across Scotland, along with other work to support their conservation status.”
Mountain hares are native to Scotland and are found in upland and mountainous regions.
They are a quarry species that have long been shot for sport and are also legitimately controlled for other reasons, including to protect plants and crops.
Those found guilty of breaking the new laws could face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.
A lot of people have campaigned for many years to bring in greater protection for mountain hares, particularly amidst the backdrop of obscene mass culls on grouse moors. It remains to be seen how effective this new licensing regime is (and be in no doubt there will be considerable scrutiny of this in the field and further campaigning if licensing is considered to be failing) but for now congratulations to RSPB Scotland, OneKind, Revive, LUSH, League Against Cruel Sports, RPUK, Scottish Raptor Study Group, Scottish Green Party and the supporters of all these groups who have forced this change in Government policy. Special thanks to Alison Johnstone MSP for all her work on this issue.