Calls for Scottish Government to stop halt the legal killing of mountain hares
Animal campaigners have reacted angrily after a truckload of dead mountain hares was spotted in the Highlands.
Wildlife photographer Pete Walkden took the grisly picture (below) close to Cairngorms National Park on the last day of open season – 28 February.
Mountain hares are protected for less than half the year in Scotland – the closed season - during which they can only be killed under licence.
Outside of this period, they can be shot freely for sport and are also killed as part of large-scale culls. Culling takes place throughout the country - usually to protect grouse moor and forestry interests.
The only official estimate found that 24,529 mountain hares were killed in one year back in 2006/7, 10 times more than the number of badgers killed in England’s badger culls in 2015.
It has led to OneKind, the animal campaigns charity, to call on the Scottish Government to end the cull.
Harry Huyton, director of OneKind, said: “Last November, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, the cabinet secretary for environment, made it clear that large-scale culls of mountain hare have no place in Scotland. She also called for more evidence, and this photograph is yet more proof that large-scale culling is still taking place across the country.
“We now want to see a strong response from the Scottish Government to protect this iconic species before the open season restarts in August.
“This cull was legal, but the fact that it took place in the dying hours of the shooting season only illustrates the determination and cynicism of those who are determined to kill mountain hares.”
OneKind is also launching its latest mountain hare campaign, focusing on the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA). The charity wants the authority to end culls in the park, and at the very least to introduce transparency measures so that the extent and location of culls is made public.
In a letter to the charity in January 2017, the CNPA confirmed that it is “aware that hare culls take place annually across many estates in the national park”.
OneKind is asking the public, especially those who live in and visit the park, to sign a giant postcard in support of the campaign that will be delivered to the park before the killing season opens again in August.
Huyton continued: “The Cairngorms National Park is at the heart of the mountain hare’s range. We urge everyone who values Scotland’s natural heritage to support our campaign by signing the postcard at www.onekind.scot. We need to demonstrate that the public expects our National Parks to lead the way when it comes to protecting wildlife.”