Scottish mountain hares are thriving in parts of the Highlands despite recent concerns the about species being in decline.
Scottish moorland managers are reporting large numbers of mountain hare, linked to last year’s ‘best in a generation’ grouse season.
The mountain hare is the only native species of hare or rabbit in Britain, distinguished by its white plumage during the winter months and brown during the summer.
Heather moorland managed for red grouse is an extremely good habitat for hares to thrive on.
Concerns had been raised recently that hare numbers may be going down; however grouse moors in the Angus Glens, Speyside and Highlands report that their numbers have increased along with grouse levels.
Danny Lawson, head gamekeeper on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens, said: “I have seen more mountain hares this year than at any time since I came here.
“Our mountain hare population has been increasing along with grouse over the last three years because our heather management gives them good grazing and because of predator control over the estate and other neighbouring estates.
“Good weather in the breeding season helps mountain hare numbers and the last two seasons, 2013 and 2014, have been very good for both grouse and mountain hares.”
Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, said: “There are surprising gaps in our collective knowledge about this secretive animal.
“This can lead to assumptions about population changes which are not correct.”
He added: “What does seem certain from the long term observations of moorland managers on the ground is that there is a strong link to land use; hare numbers are likely to go down where moorland is unmanaged or afforested but will increase where managed for red grouse.”