Mountain Hares, recently given limited protection in their main stronghold of Scotland, were reintroduced onto the Isle of Man in the 1950s by shooters. They are apparently now confined to island’s northern hills and are not found in the south of the island, the central valley forming an apparently effective barrier. However the species is declining across most of its UK range, and determining the status of the island’s remaining hares has become a priority. Should the Manx government reclassify them from vermin (which they should never have been classified as in the first place) to ‘game’ (ie they can still be shot for entertainment) or ‘protected’ (animals classified as protected cannot be injured or killed under the island’s Wildlife Act)?
Shooting lobbyists, including members of the Manx Parliament, would of course like to see these gentle creatures listed as ‘game’, but the Manx Wildlife Trust has said that would “not go far enough“. They say on their website that they believe Mountain Hares would have been native to the Isle of Man in the post-glacial period and, following their re-introduction in the 1950s, the Island now supports “a small but potentially vital population“.
They also say that any potential damage that Mountain Hares may cause to trees (the claimed reason that the hares were kisted as vermin) could be mitigated with the use of tree protectors rather than requiring management through hunting.
An opportunity to comment on the Manx government’s proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Bill 2021 has now changed but Isle of Man resident Amanda Reynolds has launched a petition asking them to reclassify the species as protected.
If you would like to sign please click on the image below:
The full text of the petition is below:
The Isle of Man government is currently consulting a new animal welfare bill 2021
It has raised a discussion that mountain hares are currently classed as vermin but environment minister Geoffrey Boot would like to classify them as game.
The Manx Wildlife Trust made this statement on their Facebook
Numbers of Mountain Hares are in decline in the British Isles due to loss of habitat and climate change. We therefore recommend mountain hares be classified as ‘protected’ rather than ‘game’. Any potential damage that mountain hares may cause to trees could be mitigated with the use of tree protectors rather than requiring management through hunting.’
Further protection for hares also has the backing of former MHK [member of the House of Keys], and MLC [Member of the Legislative Council] David Cretney who reminded residents of DEFA’s [the island’s Department of Environment, Food, and Agriculture] previous attempts to expand the hunting season for grey partridges.
He said, ‘I was surprised to see suggestions about the status of mountain hares. I knew neither the Tynwald committee nor the DEFA committee I chaired had considered this and emailed the Department to enquire. I was informed that the provisions relating to mountain hares were suggested as a consequence of other work the Department undertook in relation to game legislation for grey partridges in mid-2020. Remember that? Not a lot to do with animal welfare as is the present suggestion.’
Sign the petition, save our mountain hare from blood sports.