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Mountain hare status downgraded to ‘unfavourable’ as new study shows dramatic population slump

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Mountain hare populations have plummeted by 90% on some Scottish grouse moors, a new survey has revealed.

Wildlife charity RSPB Scotland said the species had undergone a catastrophic decline and is calling for an immediate halt to culling.

As a result of new data released by the EU – revealing the condition of Scottish protected species and habitats – the status of mountain hare has been downgraded to “unfavourable”, meaning special conservation action is needed.

According to RSPB Scotland, the main cause has been identified as hunting and game management. Other pressures including the impact of farming and habitat loss.

The report requires the Scottish Government to give information on the status of European protected habitats and species.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We have been extremely concerned about the state of our mountain hare populations for many years.

“In the last 12 months new, robust evidence has shown that populations have declined precipitously, chiefly in areas managed for driven grouse shooting.  This reclassification to unfavourable status demands urgent action.

“The recognition from Scottish Government’s own advisors that the mountain hare population is now unfavourable means that increased protection of this iconic species is needed. Self-regulation and claimed ‘voluntary restraint’ from culling by the industry has been nothing short of a pitiful failure.

“We urge the Scottish Government to take action where the industry has not and to urgently increase the protection of mountain hares in Scotland until their status is secured.”

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