Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Let's Hear it for the Hare


A project to estimate the population of brown hares in the North West has been a huge success with more than 700 sightings. But it's been hard work for volunteers taking part in the survey who have racked up 400km – the same distance as a stroll from Bolton to... Aberdeen!

North West Brown Hare Project Officer Samuel Bolton said: “The first year of the project has been a great success. It’s fantastic that so many people have got involved; I just hope that we can find some more people to help out again this year. Every survey completed really does make a difference.”

The survey, which is the biggest of its kind to date, covered North Merseyside, South Lancashire and Greater Manchester. (Around Lancaster, not included in this survey, you can see hares on the River Lune, the Trough of Bowland and at Leighton Moss for example - and the Hare Conservation and Recording Project would like you to let them know whwere).

Funded by the SITA Trust and the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, it has really grabbed people’s imaginations. Samuel said: “Each survey completed by the volunteers has been different in its own unique way. As well as hares, people have seen some great wildlife, including water voles, badgers, foxes and numerous bird species”.

Because of the decline in numbers, action plans for Brown Hare are incorporated into each of the three Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs) for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside - the plans which set conservation priorities in our area.

One of the greatest barriers to successful conservation of any species is a lack of knowledge on distribution and abundance and this is as true for Brown Hare as any other species. All three LBAPs recognise this lack for information and all have set targets and/or actions to increase our knowledge of their numbers and whereabouts.

The results of the North West Brown Hare Project show a large divide between Greater Manchester and the rest of the survey area. Of 51 1km2 transects surveyed in Greater Manchester only 10 hares were seen. This compares with 229 hares seen over 84 1km2 transects in North Merseyside and South Lancashire.

Sam said: “While there are still pockets of hares in Greater Manchester, numbers have declined. There are possible reasons for the brown hares decline, including changes in farming practices, building development, a rise in predator numbers, along with illegal poaching and coursing.

“A shift away from hay to silage production and increased stocking levels reduce the amount of cover available and increase the amount of disturbance of hares.”

The North West Brown Hare Project, which is running the survey, is now working with groups including the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, to focus on areas where hare numbers can be improved. A new survey will be running between February and April and people are still needed to carry out surveys and send in their hare sightings.

• For more information about the projects findings, volunteering for surveying, recording sightings or up and coming survey training events, people should contact Samuel on 0161 3424409 or email samuel.bolton@tameside.gov.uk or visit www.brownhare.org.uk. Or you can keep up to date on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/North-West-Brown-Hare-Project/222059464548994 

• For anyone who wants to get involved in the survey there is a half- day course on Monday (6th February) from 1:45pm to 5pm. This will involve an hour long talk and then a walk and fieldwork for two hours. Meet at The George & Dragon Public House, Warrington Road, Glazebury, WA3 5LF. Other surveys will take place across the region until April.

Related Links

Wildlife Hotspots Blog

Hare Conservation and Recording Project 

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