Hares march back on a `friendly' estate

Nicholas Schoon reports on a conservation success story

Britain's hares may have turned the corner, according to the Game Conservancy Trust. After decades of decline their numbers appear to have stabilised and could start rising.

Yesterday the trust, a charity which carries out research on the conservation of gamebirds, mammals and fish, proudly showed off the hare population explosion it has engineered at a Leicestershire country estate.

In 1991 there were only six animals on the 316-hectare farm. Now there are more than 100 and a dozen could be seen sprinting across fields yesterday in the spring sunshine. They can reach 30mph and weigh three times as much as a rabbit.

At the Loddington estate, near Rutland, the farm has been managed in a "hare friendly" fashion over the past four years. Foxes have been shot in early summer, when they eat the young hares - leverets. The landscape and crop growing have also been changed to benefit the hares, whose decline has been linked with the spreading of intensive agriculture. Where once only five different crops were grown at Loddington, now there are eight.

Land taken out of production to gain Common Agricultural Policy set-aside grants has been deployed in ways which benefit hares and game birds. Strips of it run across or alongside the largest fields, planted with brassicas and cereals to provide food and cover.

The trust has also been monitoring hare numbers on a nearby farm of similar size. There, where foxes have not been controlled and cropping patterns and field layouts left unchanged, the hare population has remained in single figures.

Dr Stephen Tapper, the Game Conservancy Trust's head of research, believes a recent report on the hare population from Bristol University researchers was too pessimistic. He puts the total number of brown hares in Britain at one to two million while the Bristol researchers' estimate was 600,000 to 900,000. He accepts that numbers dwindled rapidly during the post-war intensification of agriculture but believes the arrival of set aside may be starting a recovery.

There are many potential causes for the decline - disease, predation, hunting, pesticides and silage cutting which chops up leverets. The trust blames the rise in fox numbers and a lack of summer food due to modern farming techniques, which have cut crop diversity and eliminated spring sown cereals.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders