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In search of brown hares

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 13:49 UK time, Friday, 6 January 2012

I'm just back from a trip to try to spot brown hares here in Carmarthenshire.

I was near the village of Brechfa and joined Vaughn Mathews who works with the Wildlife Trust Wales and is currently coming to the end of a three year hare survey of Wales.

It's estimated that there's been a 75% drop in hare numbers in Wales since WWII, but the survey is trying to establish if areas which are being sensitively managed are seeing a resurgence in numbers.

Farmland run as part of the Welsh Government's Tir Gofal scheme is being compared with land which is not part of any agri-environment projects.

We climbed a steep hill, slowly, looking carefully for any signs of hare, but as Vaughn explained, we were unlikely to see any in daylight.

Vaughn Mathews

Vaughn Mathews is currently coming to the end of a three year hare survey of Wales.

He told me that most of his sightings have been at dawn or dusk and that 3 years on, he still finds it a thrill to spot a brown hare: "They're just such charismatic creatures," he says "they can be so secretive and then sometimes, you can see them plainly, boxing together or bouncing along a field."

"I've also spoken to many farmers who say they'd like to see more hares on their land and wonder how they can attract them."

Hares are quite choosy though and apparently they don't like to share their living space with rabbits, sheep or people for that matter, and prefer to be around cattle, probably because they don't graze the grass so low.

Intensive farming methods, the loss of mixed farming systems and higher stock levels are all being blamed for dwindling hare numbers.

Vaughn wouldn't be drawn on any of the surveys findings, which are due to be published in the Spring, but he hinted that there could be a few surprises in store.

A hare from our Flickr group taken by Ros Bayliss.

A hare from our BBC Wales Nature Flickr group taken by Ros Baylis.

After a steep climb, several tricky farm gates and a lot of wading through thick mud, sadly we didn't spot any hares today.

But the Wildlife Trust Wales is asking for members of the public to get involved with the survey, by reporting any sightings of this reclusive animal.

If you're luckier than me and spot a brown hare, you can get in touch with them by visiting www.welshwildlife.org

You can hear more about my hare spotting trip on this week's Country Focus on Sunday, January 8 at 7am on BBC Radio Wales.

Watch a clip featuring Iolo Williams trying to measure the speed of a hare running.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Brown hares are amazing animals. It is shame that they are declining in numbers. It is great that organizations such as Wildlife Trust Wales are helping out.

    www.igor-purlantov.org

  • Comment number 2.

    hi,
    Im a welsh woman currently in australia,but my heart is still in the welsh countryside,I read your story about the vanishing brown hares with dismay, prompting a thought,on behalf of all the remaining brown hares and st Bridget..
    it might be a good idea if you stop filling the sky with all those lousey predetory red kites !!!...

  • Comment number 3.

    Red kites are predominantly scavengers but will take young hares, rabbits, small birds, lizards and eat plenty of earthworms - like buzzards.

    However, I don't think you can blame a declining hare population on red kites as the kites themselves were nearly extinct in the UK by the 20th century!

    They have only really made a comeback over the last 10-15 years and even now are not exactly what I'd call common although you're very likely to see one now in the skies above Mid Wales.

    As the blog points out - 'Intensive farming methods, the loss of mixed farming systems and higher stock levels are all being blamed for dwindling hare numbers.'

 

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