The Volunteer Mountain Hare Survey
Do you spend time in the Scottish uplands? Can you help with a new project monitoring mountain hares?
It is easy to participate. All you need is a smartphone to record your sightings using the free Mammal Mapper app.
By contributing to an improved understanding of abundance and distribution you’ll be helping to inform management and conservation strategies for this charismatic, near threatened species.
Why mountain hares?
The mountain hare, Lepus timidus, is Britain's only native member of the hare and rabbit family. Within Britain, its native range is restricted to the Scottish uplands, though small populations are found elsewhere.
In recent years there have been growing concerns about the population of mountain hares, particularly in Scotland. The species faces a number of threats including reduced habitat due to changes in land use, uncertainty over the sustainability of control measures, and competition for resources with brown hares (Lepus europaeus). These issues, along with a lack of reliable data on their population statues, are reflected in the species’ Near Threatened status in the Mammal Society’s IUCN-compliant Red List (2020). In view of this, since 1st March 2021 they have had full legal protection in Scotland.
NatureScot, the Mammal Society, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the James Hutton Institute, and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust are collaborating on a project aiming to collect this vital information, but we need your help! We are asking you to help us to record mountain hares so that we can improve our understanding of this species.
You can turn any walk in Scotland into a Rambling Survey of mountain hares using the Mammal Mapper App. While walking, just look out for and record any mountain hares that you come across. Because we also urgently need more information on many other upland species, you can also use the app to record other mammals and birds during your survey. Instructions on how to use the app are available. View the Volunteer Mountain Hare Project online training video and guidance.
If you would be willing to contribute further, please consider carrying out mountain hare Square Surveys. These also use the Mammal Mapper App, but rather than recording wildlife for the duration of your upland walk, you'll carry out focused surveys in specific 1 km squares. For more information, and to sign up, please visit the Mountain Hare Square Surveys page on the BTO website.
Compared to other areas of Britain, less is known about the wildlife of Scotland’s Highlands because this area is more remote. This is why, whether a hillwalker, experienced naturalist, or someone with a more general interest in wildlife, your help with recording mountain hares and upland birds is so vital.