Hare today, gone tomorrow: Peak District mountain hares face extinction

Elizabeth Meade reports on recent findings that Peak District mountain hare populations are on the decline

Elizabeth Meade
1st March 2021
Featured image: Wikimedia Commons
A recent study funded by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and run by Carlos Bedson from Manchester Metropolitan University seeks to determine whether the mountain hares of England's Peak District are in decline. After dying out in England during the Ice Age and remaining in other parts of the UK, mountain hares were reintroduced to England in the 1800s but are once again threatened.

At numbers around 2500 in the Peak District, mountain hares are a small group, and conservationists believe they may be threatened by global warming. Closely related to Arctic hares, they prefer cold climates such as that of the Peak District, but warming temperatures threaten to make this habitat inhospitable – a lack of snow makes camouflage difficult and the warm temperatures also threaten the growth of the hares’ food sources. Mountain hares turn white in the winter, which is triggered by changes in air temperature – so it’s clear to see how global warming can impact them.

The total population of hares in Scotland in 2018 was less than 1% of what it had been in the 1950s

Hares in Scotland are possibly on the decline as well: in 2018, a study suggested that the total population was less than 1% of what it had been in the 1950s. Beyond global warming, there was the additional issue of hares being culled due to their association with a disease that affects grouse, which the ecologists of the study believed was unwarranted and would ultimately harm the ecosystem.

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AUTHOR: Elizabeth Meade
Science sub-ed and Chemistry major. Avid reader. Chaos theorist. Amateur batrachologist and historian. Rock fan. Likes cybersecurity and cooking.

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