First Minister invited to Highlands to learn about hares

Mountain hare lepus timidus, in white winter coat and looks to have attitude, Findhorn valley, Scotland, March

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Gamekeepers in a controversial mountain hare film have sent an open invitation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to learn about hare management on their ground.

BBC Scotland recently aired a film obtained by animal rights campaigners showing what they described as ‘military style’ hare culls.

The broadcast led to Ms Sturgeon describing the practices as ‘unacceptable’ during First Minister’s Questions.

Now gamekeepers have written to the First Minister to invite her to the Highlands to see first-hand why the hare management is carried out.

They feel it is wrong for the government to force land managers to control deer populations then leave high populations of hares to graze the same habitats.

Records showing hares taken compared to population numbers will be made available to the First Minister, with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham also being invited to the Highlands.

Head gamekeeper for one estate, Duncan MacKenzie, said: ‘We’d really like to be able to show the First Minister around rather than discuss these issues in Edinburgh. I think it would be beneficial for everyone to get an understanding of why the hares need to be managed.

‘We had SNH out a few years ago to see how the hare populations were being controlled. We invited them out recently also, so nothing is being hidden.

‘We have good records of the amount of hares in comparison to the amount we have taken off the hill, covering a number of years, and there are still high numbers of hares on the ground.

‘What the footage by the campaigners showed was working people being secretly filmed carrying out a legal management activity which is no different to other forms of species management.’