No hare loss in Braydon Forest - A look at the brown hare population in north Wiltshire
PUBLISHED: 17:27 19 April 2011 | UPDATED: 10:32 21 February 2013
A survey of landowners by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reveals populations of brown hares are holding up in the Braydon Forest area of north Wiltshire. Find out more...
No hare loss in Braydon Forest
These charismatic animals have suffered a national decline of 75 per cent over the past 50 years as a result of changes in agricultural practices and land use.
Now, with the advice and support of the Trusts Landscapes for Wildlife project, farmers and landowners in this particular corner of Wiltshire at least are aiding their survival by making a few simple changes in how they farm their land.
We cannot say that brown hares are making a come back in the Braydon Forest yet as 25% of our respondents claim numbers are on the up, another 25% suspect they are declining, while the remainder think that numbers have stayed the same, says Paul Darby, the Trusts Landscape for Wildlife project officer.
But at least from this we can conclude that numbers are stable in the area, which is an improvement on their recent history.
The brown hare population peaked at about four million in Victorian times when gamekeepers controlled their main predators, and mixed farming suited their lifestyle. Their numbers tumbled between the 1960s and the 1980s and now stand at between 817,500 and 1.25 million. They are now classified as a 'vulnerable species'.
Concern about the hares future led to the introduction of a UK Biodiversity Action Plan, with specific actions aimed at increasing their numbers.
The spring is the best time to see them. Although usually solitary animals, you may spot their spectacular chases and 'boxing matches' as the females fight off the males advances.
A powerful animal that can accelerate to 45 miles an hour, hares are considerably bigger than rabbits. Look out for their long, black-tipped ears, long, powerful hind legs, short black and white tail and brown fur with white underparts.
"Most farmers tell us they enjoy seeing hares on their land. We can advise on how to create a greater variety of habitats by leaving field edges uncut, and planting hedges and small woods to provide hares with plenty of places to feed, rest, shelter and protect their young, says Paul.
The fact that farmers can now get money for encouraging wildlife under the Governments Higher Level Stewardship Scheme will also aid their recovery.
The project area covers the Braydon Forest with Minety as a central point. It is at present mainly funded by The Tubney Charitable Trust.
Tips -How farmers can grow their hares
- Break up large blocks of cereal crops with grassland areas
- Keep wide field margins in arable fields where the grass is allowed to grow long.
- In grassland provide areas of long grass in which leverets can hide
- Leave stubble over winter to provide shelter
- When making silage, cut the field from the centre outwards to give hares the best chance of escaping to neighbouring fields