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Protected species: hares

Both species of hare found in Scotland – the brown hare and the mountain hare – are quarry species protected by law in closed season.

Brown hares and mountain hares are protected in the closed season under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

The mountain hare is also a species of ‘Community interest’ listed on Annex V of the Habitats Directive. To ensure a favourable conservation status, the taking of these animals and their exploitation may be subject to management measures.

Both species of hare are quarry species and may be legally controlled in open season.

Control of mountain hares usually takes place on managed grouse moors to:

  • reduce tick numbers
  • protect young trees

You can see our summary of offences in relation to these protected species below. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

Discover more about hares found in Scotland.

Closed season dates

The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 introduced closed seasons for the killing or taking of wild hares.

Brown hare: 1 February to 30 September
Mountain hare: 1 March to 31 July

Offences: hares

It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take a brown or mountain hare:

  • in its closed season
  • without a legal right to do so (i.e. poaching) – includes rabbit also

It is also an offence to possess or control, sell or offer for sale, or transport for the purpose of sale any living or dead hare (or rabbit), or any derivative of such an animal, which has been killed without a legal right to do so.

Licensing

Licensing allows named individuals to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence. If you’re planning any activities that could affect hares, you must make sure you stay within the law.

Find out about hares and licensing.

Learn more about licensing.

Find out more

Protected species known to occur naturally in Scotland and their protection

Rabbit and hares