Reader Letter: Region could be the final refuge for brown hares

A brown hare running, on Havergate Island. Picture: Harry Read

A brown hare running, on Havergate Island. Picture: Harry Read - Credit:

The dropping of the current Conservative plan to offer a free vote in the Commons on hunting with dogs is very relevant for the future prospects of our native brown hares in East Anglia. One third of the pack hunts in England and Wales target hares, not foxes, and the 2004 Hunting Act also outlaws hare coursing. In 2011 a zoology report by Dr Toni Bunnell, University of Hull, listed the iconic brown hare as one of our British species most at risk of extinction by 2050.

Sighting returns compiled by the BTO indicate a continuing national decline — a further five per cent overall between 1995 and 2015 — to add to the estimated 80pc decline since the Ground Game Act of 1880.

Within 12 years of that original legislation the decline started to become so noticeable that Parliament brought in the 1892 Hares Preservation Act, which bans the sale of British hare and leveret meat from March to July inclusive and is currently endorsed by Defra. If the extinction threat is eventually realised then East Anglia could be the final refuge for this animal in England. Elsewhere current populations are often too fragmented and fragile to be sustainable during the next few decades.

John Rimington, Technical Liaison Officer, Hare Preservation Trust