Click to contact us or call 02476 353537

Queens University issues stark warning for the Irish hare


Researchers at Queens University Belfast have issued a stark warning about the future of the Irish hare and the threat it faces from the European brown hare, which has set up home in Mid-Ulster and West Tyrone.

Dr Neil Reid from Quercus (Queens Universitys Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science), said: In March 2011, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to outlaw hare coursing in Northern Ireland to protect the future of the Irish hare. But our native hare remains vulnerable to another serious threat that of the invading European hare.

European hares are found in Britain and continental Europe, but they have been highly successful in invading many countries beyond their native range in south-west Europe and parts of Asia. There have been many studies on their impact on native species. Dr Reid reviewed these studies to get a clearer picture of how much of a threat the invading species might be to the Irish hare.

The study, published in the international journal Biological Invasions, suggested that European hares exhibit strong competition for habitat space and food resources with native species, most notably other hare species. It also warns that disease and parasite transmission and climate change may give the invading European hare an edge over our native species.

Dr Reid added: The Irish hare represents an evolutionary unique lineage, which is restricted to Ireland where it has been present since before the last glacial maximum, making it one of our few native mammal species. Hence, it has been isolated for 30,000-60,000 years. So the discovery that both species are hybridising in the wild is very worrying.

The scientific community is so concerned that a panel of international experts, from the Lagomorph Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the worlds foremost authority on threatened species, signed a foreword to accompany the paper as an urgent call for further research and are calling for a European hare Invasive Species Action Plan (iSAP) and Eradication Strategy.

The research was commissioned by the European hare sub-group of the Irish hare Species Action Plan Steering Group and funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) through the Natural Heritage Research Partnership (NHRP).

Full reference for the study is: Reid, N.(2011) European hare (Lepus europaeus) invasion ecology: implications for the conservation of the endemic Irish hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus). Biological Invasions13(3): 559-569. doi: 10.1007/s10530-010-9849-x

The European hare sub-group and Irish hare Species Action Plan Steering Group are chaired by the Ulster Wildlife Trust (UWT).

The story was carried by the IUCNs Species Magazine Issue 53: pp22-23, putting the Irish hare beside internationally recognised flagships for conservation including gorillas, rhino and elephant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * great opportunity to promote your business to our dedicated readership of farmers, landowners, estate managers and associated agricultural professionals.
Contact us today on 02476 353537 and let's work together to drive your business forward.