Mountain hare surveyors wanted: No experience necessary

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Volunteers are wanted for the first on-the-ground national survey to shed light on the population and trends of Scottish mountain hares.

The survey will carry on throughout 2021 and is calling on hillwalkers, naturalists and other outdoor enthusiasts to record sightings of the charismatic animals as they are out and about. No previous experience of wildlife surveys is necessary to take part.

Mountain hares are Scotland’s only native hare and an important species in the Scottish hills, and gathering more accurate information about them will help inform conservation efforts.

The project is a partnership of NatureScot, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Mammal Society, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and the James Hutton Institute.

To take part, volunteers will need a smartphone with the free Mammal Mapper app that can be used to record mammals during walks anywhere in Scotland as and when regional Covid travel restrictions allow.

Fiona Mathews from the Mammal Society said: ‘Mountain hares are classed as Near Threatened in Britain by our recent Red List, highlighting the need for urgent action. Almost all of Britain’s mountain hares are found in Scotland, yet in most regions we have very little information on how they are doing. That is why we are calling on the public to help in our new project. You don’t have to be a specialist: all you need is to be out in the hills with a smartphone.’

And Rob Raynor, a mammal specialist at NatureScot, added: ‘Many people enjoy seeing mountain hares in the Scottish hills. Our priority is to make sure they remain a common sight. To do that, we need a better understanding of the existing population – something which this novel national survey will make possible by filling in the gaps in our knowledge. It will give us a better picture of mountain hare numbers, both regionally and nationally, and support decisions about how to maintain and conserve our native hare population.

‘We’d like to encourage hillwalkers and anyone with an interest to contribute their sightings to this valuable project. We have an online training video and guidance within the app, so participants who aren’t certain if they’ll be able to tell the difference between mountain hares, brown hares or rabbits can feel confident about their identification once they’re out in the hills.’

Ben Darvill from the BTO said: ‘We hope that the project will add an enjoyable extra dimension to outdoor adventures.’

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