A survey of mountain hares was hailed as a success a year after they became a protected species.
Hillwalker, bird and mammal surveyors, and other outdoor enthusiasts took part in a nationwide survey last year, recording sightings using an app called Mammal Mapper when they were out and about, to shed more light on distribution. and on the number of hares.
The mountain hare is Scotland’s only native hare and an important species in the Scottish hills.
They are classified as Near Threatened in Scotland on the Red List of Mammal Species in the UK and received full protection in Scotland in March 2021.
The Volunteer Mountain Hare Survey project aimed to gather accurate information to better inform conservation efforts.
A total of 66 volunteers surveyed 1,465 km (910 miles) using the app.
The species has been recorded in some new areas, such as near Loch Ewe in the North West Highlands, as well as many sightings from its previously known strongholds in Scotland.
The report highlights areas where the survey approach and technology could be improved, which will drive refinements for this year’s survey.
The project is a partnership of NatureScot, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Mammal Society, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and James Hutton Institute.
It builds on previous work to develop suitable counting methods in the central mountain hare range and seeks to integrate these other counts to allow for better monitoring of mountain hares throughout their range in Scotland. The hope is that the investigation will move into an ongoing annual monitoring program in due course.
Frazer Coomber, Chief Scientific Officer of the Mammal Society, said: “Compared to previous years, the Volunteer Mountain Hare Survey has significantly increased survey coverage of the Mammal Mapper app in Scotland.
“Since the beginning of this citizen science survey we have seen a substantial increase in the number of mountain hare sightings reported via the app and these records continue to be sent – a big thank you to everyone who submits their sightings.” .
Rob Raynor, Mammalian Specialist at NatureScot, said, “The results from this groundbreaking citizen science survey are very promising, with many volunteers involved to help get better coverage than previous surveys.
“Improving the information we have on mountain hare populations is critical so that we can protect and conserve this much loved species, so we are extremely grateful to everyone who took part.
“We hope that many more volunteers will sign up to get involved this year to help this project grow stronger.”
Mark Wilson, Senior Research Ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology, said: “We were delighted at the level of involvement of existing BTO volunteers, many of whom already generously devote their time to other wildlife investigations.
In addition to recording mountain hares, these volunteers examined a number of other mammal and bird species, often in remote mountainous areas where few previous wildlife records have been recorded.
“This highlights the potential of the Volunteer Mountain Hare Survey to provide useful information on a number of data-deficient mountain species.”
The mountain hare (Shy Lepus) can also be found in other parts of the UK, as well as in several cold and mountainous regions of the world, including Siberia, Poland and the Faroe Islands.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.