Have you seen the Easter Bunny?

Seriously – The Mammal Society appeals for sightings of rabbits and hares

Embargoed to 11.59pm 2nd April 2015

 

Can you tell your Mad March Hare from your Easter Bunny?  Now Spring has arrived, The Mammal Society is appealing for the public to let them know when they see a wild rabbit or hare. 

Dr Fiona Mathews, the new chair of The Mammal Society, says:

“Mammals can be rare, nocturnal, shy, and difficult to see.  Rabbits and hares, on the other hand, are easy to spot, particularly in spring when vegetation is low.  People tend to assume that because they see them, these animals must be everywhere.  In fact, some areas have very low populations, particularly where there have been disease outbreaks, whereas in other areas they can be significant agricultural pests.  There is some evidence that hares may not be as numerous as they once were, so we need to find out whether they are suffering the same declines as many other farmland species.”

Rabbits and hares may be cute and fluffy, but they also have important roles in the ecosystem, affecting other species ranging from foxes to butterflies.  The Mammal society is therefore appealing for people across the country to let us know if they’ve seen wild rabbits or hares, whether it be in a London park, a Norfolk field, or on a Scottish mountain.

Dr Mathews explains “The Mammal Society wants records of rare and common mammals as we are producing the first National Mammal Atlas in over 20 years. This will provide vital baseline data on mammal distribution, which will support future conservation and research projects.  Rabbit spotting is a great activity for all the family to get involved with over the Easter Holidays.  We even have a free app ‘MammalTracker’ so you can instantly upload sightings on your phone (http://www.mammal.org.uk/mammal_tracker).”

Derek Crawley, who is co-ordinating the new Atlas explains how to tell your Mad March Hare from your Easter Bunny: “rabbits and hares are quite straightforward to tell apart.  Hares are usually solitary or seen in pairs, whereas rabbits are often found in social groups.  Hares are larger, have long limbs and lollop along whereas the rabbit has a bobbing gait.  They usually look skinny compared with the rounder shape of a rabbit.  The ears are also distinctive: those of hares are longer and have black tips.  Finally, the eyes of hares are amber whereas rabbit eyes are dark brown.  If you are lucky enough to spot a rare mountain hare, these have grey coats in summer and are white in the winter, and their ears do not have black tips.”   

How to report your sightings

Sightings of rabbits and hares, or of their field signs such as droppings and burrows, can be reported via the Mammal Tracker app, on The Mammal Society Website by mailing them to The Mammal Society, 3 The Carronades, New Road, Southampton, SO14 0AA, or by sending them to your local biological records centre.  If posting your records, be sure to include a grid reference or postal code/location and a date for your sighting.  The web-based system lets you find your location on a clickable map, and the app records your location automatically, so these are the easiest systems to use.  Whenever possible, please also submit a photograph to allow your sighting to be verified by an expert.

                                                                       

Editor’s notes

  1. The Mammal Society works at the interface of science, policy making and practice.  As the only scientific society with an interest in all British mammals, its mission is to catalyse research and improve understanding of mammals.  It gathers information on the distribution and conservation status of wild mammals to facilitate evidence-based conservation and management.
     
  2. Dr Fiona Mathews was voted in as new chair of The Mammal Society on Saturday 28th March at the AGM at Lancaster University. She is the first woman to chair the society since it was founded in 1954.  She is Senior Lecturer in Mammalian Biology at the University of Exeter.
     
  3. For further information please contact Dr Fiona Mathews on f.mathews@exeter.ac.uk/ 07977 137421, Derek Crawley on derekcrawley@btinternet.com, or Marina Pacheco on marina.pacheco@themammalsociety.org   07726 206460                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
  4. Downloadable factsheets on rabbits and hares and how to identify them are available from The Mammal Society:

                      Brown Hare

                      Rabbit

            Information on distinguishing the Irish hare and the mountain hare for readers in Ireland can be obtained here 

       5.  Further high-resolution images are available on request.