Mountain hare – Lepus timidus
Mountain hares rest during the day in forms and scrapes which provide shelter and they sometimes make burrows in the earth or in snow, particularly when young. Their runs usually pass directly up slopes, rather than traversing slopes like those of sheep and deer. They are active at night, and although considered to be browsers of woody plants such as heather and other dwarf shrubs and trees, they prefer to eat grasses when they are available during the summer months. During periods of snow cover they gather on leeward hill slopes, in groups of 20+, to shelter or feed where shallow snow permits scraping to reveal underlying heather. The leverets are preyed upon by several predators including foxes, stoats, cats, buzzards and eagles; eagles are also major predators of adults.
Mountain hares are listed in Annex V of the EC Habitats Directive (1992), as a species ‘of community interest whose taking in the wild and exploitation may be subject to management measures.’ This conservation status means that certain methods of capture are prohibited or restricted. Mountain hares have historically been considered as small game with little commercial value either as a meat source or for shooting revenue. However, the shooting, which usually takes place in the winter months, is becoming increasingly commercialised due to shortage of other game.