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					Brown Hare Report: 2010




Brown Hare Project 
Report for surveys carried out over 2008, 2009 & 2010




                                                                         Report by Ben Deed

                                                                            Merseyside BioBank
                                     Estate Barn, Court Hey Park, Roby Road, Liverpool. L16 3NA
                                                                              Tel: 0151 737 4154
                                                                             Fax: 0151 722 6098
                                                                 Info@MerseysideBioBank.org.uk



Merseyside BioBank LRC           1                                                   24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                                  Acknowledgements


First and foremost we would like to acknowledge all the hard working volunteers who
have taken part in the training and survey events over the last three years! We’ve had
an excellent uptake with many volunteers getting involved and over 30 1km squares
surveyed.


The findings of this project have greatly increased our knowledge of Brown Hare
abundance and distribution throughout Merseyside, and that information can now be
used to better conserve this iconic species in our local area.


Our sincerest of thanks to our volunteer surveyors:


Lawrence Armstrong, Alan Bedford, Adam Britt, David Britt, Jennifer Cairns, Aless
Castagni, Ian Coats, Sheila Cooksey, Chris Dalziel, John Dalziel, Mary Dean,
William Haizelden, David Hardy, John Highet, Rod Hill, Catherine Highfield, Elspeth
McCauley, William McCauley, Pauline Michell, Rebecca Moran, Ann Parker, Alex
Parsons, Helen Patrick, Rachael Rhodes, Ben Roberts, Kath Smycki, Dave Taylor,
Paddie Taylor and Dave Williams for conducting the surveys between 2008 and 2010.


Thanks to Helen Greaves for organising the surveys and training sessions, as well as
delivering training; Rick Rogers for delivery training; Seamus Eaves and Jane Ashley
for their support and to Jon Appleton for allowing us to use his Hare-friendly
Bickerstaffe farm for training over the three years of this project!


If we have missed any volunteers and supporters from this list, please accept our
sincere apologies as well as our thanks.


We would also like to thank David Humphreys for the use of his excellent photos!




Ben Deed
(Information Officer)




Merseyside BioBank LRC                      2                                 24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                                                        Index


1.0 Background and Introduction ..............................................................................4
   1.1 Ecology ................................................................................................................4
   1.2 Threats..................................................................................................................5
   1.3 Protection .............................................................................................................6
   1.4 Surveys.................................................................................................................7

2.0 Aim ..........................................................................................................................8

3.0 Methodology ...........................................................................................................9

4.0 Results ...................................................................................................................10
   4.1 Overall records...................................................................................................10
   4.2 Habitat results ....................................................................................................12
   4.3 Distribution and Comparison.............................................................................13

5.0 Evaluation and Conclusion .................................................................................16
   5.1 Observations ......................................................................................................16
   5.2 Aims Evaluation.................................................................................................17

6.0 Interpretation notes .............................................................................................19

7.0 Reference ..............................................................................................................20
  7.1 Useful websites ..................................................................................................20




Merseyside BioBank LRC                                          3                                                      24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                            1.0 Background and Introduction


In the UK Brown Hares (Lepus europaeus) are regarded as relatively common,
though they have declined significantly since the early Victorian era to around 20% of
the population at that time.


The west of the country, including our own area, where pastoral land-use is highest, is
thought to have been hardest hit and has seen the worst declines.


1.1 Ecology
The     Brown       Hare   (Lepus   europaeus)   is
considered by most to have been introduced by
the Romans to Britain during there conquests of
the isles and the Brown Hares potential for use
as a food source, however there is no evidence
of use or records from before Norman times.
No matter how or when Hares came to Britain,
they have become established, and are now
considered part of our British wildlife. Their
range extends throughout English, Welsh and
Scottish lowlands only to be replaced by the
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus) in upland areas
such as the Peak District and Scottish Highlands.


Brown Hares are mainly nocturnal, with a preference towards habitats consisting of
open countryside with short vegetation, where they feed on young grasses, herbs and
arable crops. During daylight hours, to reduce disturbance or predation, Brown Hares
will hide away in shallow depressions in vegetation or ploughed fields, called forms,
and rely on their natural camouflage to avoid being seen.


Offspring can be produced almost all year round, along with typical behaviour such as
chasing and boxing.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                      4                                  24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




However, these behaviours are more readily seen in March and April when they
become more intense, and more ‘bucks’ approach females (‘does’) in search of a
mate.


Brown Hare young or ‘leverets’ take about 42 days to develop, and are born furred
and active, starting to feed on grass just 12 days after being born. The Brown Hare
doe will continue to suckle its leverets until around 30 days.


A doe will raise around three litters every year, usually between February and
October, with early and late litters consisting of one leveret and peak season litters up
to four. The success of these litters is highly dependant on summer weather, with
higher mortality in wet and cold conditions.


The average life expectancy for a Brown Hare is approximately three years.
(Natural England, 2007)



1.2 Threats


The decline in the species is thought to be mainly a result of the increased use of
intensive farming techniques, as well as changes in the scale of crop sown, and the
times of year it is harvested, which has resulted in greatly reducing the amount of
suitable foraging habitat.


                                                In addition to this, intensive livestock
                                                and silage production on farmland has
                                                been shown to greatly increase the
                                                mortality of leverets, as disturbance
                                                caused   by   livestock   increases   the
                                                chances of predation.


Poaching is also a current threat to Brown Hares, with persistent poaching causing the
extinction of localised populations; this is one of the main problems in our area in
addition to illegal hunting with dogs.



Merseyside BioBank LRC                      5                                   24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




A potential future threat may well include increasing pressure of expanding urban
centres onto Green Belt land, which would cause loss of foraging and breeding
habitat, as well as reduce the quality of remaining habitat by fragmenting it.


1.3 Protection


Legally, on a National scale, the Brown Hare has some protection through the Ground
Game Act (1880)1, Hares Protection Act (1911)2 and other more recent legislation
such as the Hunting Act 20043, it is also illegal to hunt them with dogs or to sell them
during their breeding season (March 1st –        1&2
                                                      “The Ground Game Act 1880 authorises owners or
          st
July 31 ) and they have a National SAP           occupiers of land to take hares and rabbits. However, the
                                                 Hares Act 1848 prohibits the shooting of hares at night
                                                 by any person other than a landowner or occupier, or a
(Species Action Plan) that seeks to support      person authorised under Ground Game Act 1880. The
                                                 Hares Preservation Act 1892 creates a closed season for
and enhance the population across the UK         the sale of hares during the breeding season, (1March –
                                                 31 July inclusive). Under section 2 and 3 of this act it is
through various actions and conservation         an offence to sell or otherwise expose for sale a hare
                                                 during this closed season.” (EBP, 2004)
effort.

                                                 3
                                                   “Section 5 prohibits hare coursing events. Subsection
In Merseyside the Brown Hare is thought to       (1) makes it an offence for a person to participate in,
                                                 attend or knowingly facilitate a hare coursing event or to
be following the same declining pattern as       permit land which belongs to him to be used for a hare
                                                 coursing event. Under subsection (2) when a dog
                                                 participates in a hare coursing event an offence is
across the rest of the UK. However, it is        committed by any person who enters the dog for the
                                                 event, who permits the dog to be entered for the event or
considered a LBAP (Local Biodiversity            who controls or handles the dog in the course of or for
                                                 the purposes of the even” (DEFRA, 2004)
Action Plan) species, which gives it extra
local importance and makes it a conservation priority.


As an LBAP species the Brown Hare benefits from being recognised as a
conservation priority so extra consideration must be given when a development
threatens to destroy or impact Brown Hare habitat. The species is actively being
conserved through the development of public awareness and recognition, and through
involving landowners such as farmers to increase uptake of beneficial agri-
environmental schemes.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                     6                                                    24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




1.4 Brown Hare surveys


The aim of the Brown Hare Conservation and Recording Project was set to ascertain
the extent of the species presence throughout Merseyside, Greater Manchester and
Lancashire.


                                              Through      these     surveys        and
                                              partnerships we hope to gain a greater
                                              understanding of Brown Hares as a
                                              species, their current abundance and
                                              reasons for their decline. Using this
                                              information we can then develop
                                              detailed action plans and conservations
                                              efforts to better support this species
and enhance the environment with them in mind.


The Project began in 2008 with a plan to run until 2010.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                    7                                    24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                                        2.0 Aims


The Project was designed and put forward with several specific aims in mind:


    •    To raise the profile of Brown Hare in the region – The Project was also geared
         up to raise the profile of the species in Merseyside, with loss of suitable
         habitat a major factor in the decline of the species it is essential that
         landowners are made aware of the impacts that some farming techniques and
         changes in land-use have on this species.


         Awareness also needed to be
         raised with the general public,
         educating more people as to the
         situation and threats faced by
         Brown Hares, as well as ways in
         which they can help and get
         involved.


    •    Generate more records – As a result of surveys carried out though the project
         we aimed to generate new recent records of Brown Hare distribution and
         abundance, these records could then be added to the MBB database.


         This would allow us to accurately map the presence or absence of Brown Hare
         across our region, and also highlight areas where more recording work is
         needed to present the full picture. This information could then be used to aid
         future surveying work for the species as well as augmenting and targeting
         conservation efforts where they are most needed.


    •    Work towards measuring population trends – This is a long-term aim that has
         been developed in conjunction with a number of other partners, to determine a
         ‘baseline’ species abundance and distribution in our area, as well as that of
         Greater Manchester and Lancashire, so to allow more precise conservation
         efforts and detailed monitoring of the species.



Merseyside BioBank LRC                      8                                  24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                                      3.0 Methodology


The Project surveys were to be carried out by trained volunteers over three years
(2008, 2009 & 2010). Once trained these volunteers would pick a 1km square within
the Merseyside and West Lancashire area for surveying.


The 1km squares were surveyed by walking a transect, chosen to give the best view of
the area in the square and broadly follows that described in previous national surveys
(Hutchings & Harris, 1996).


Surveyors were given a map of their square with a recording form and asked to mark
their transect route and sighting locations, so that they could be matched up to each
record, so to make each one as accurate and useful as possible.


The     records      themselves   contained   details   on   the   abundance,   behaviour,
meteorological conditions and habitat type.


Each surveyor took on at least one square though many took on two or more.
However, square selection was not random and so limits later statistical analysis,
although it also increased the likelihood of records being generated and therefore
meeting one or more aims of the project.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                        9                                   24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                                       4.0 Results


This section provides a full summary of the results of records taken over the three-
year period of the Brown Hare project surveys.


In 2008 we saw 12 volunteer recorders survey 15 sites and produce a staggering 84
records of Brown Hare as well as 22 of other species (76 positive/presence and 8
negative/absence), averaging 7 records per recorder and 5.6 records of brown hare per
site.


2009 brought in 5 new volunteers and saw 4 sites with repeat surveys. Overall in 2009
there were 8 surveyors and 12 sites surveyed producing 33 records of Brown Hare and
14 of other species.


2010 saw 15 recorders, some new, some returning from 2009 and a few from 2008
surveying over 13 sites producing 37 records (an average of 2.85 records per site,
almost matching the previous year at 2.75).


4.1 Overall record and site results:


In total, 30 volunteer recorders
produced 154 records of Brown
Hare and 41 records of other
species, across 32 1km squares,
averaging out at around 5
records per recorder and almost
5 records per site.


The Graph (right) shows the
correlation         between   the
recorders, records and sites. 2008 seems to show a significantly higher amount of
records though when checking the raw data we can see that the majority of these
records come from just two sites, though without them the count is still 37 and
continues to suggest a much higher abundance of Hares in 2008.


Merseyside BioBank LRC                     10                                24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




However, as the sites were not randomly selected, and comparative data over the
whole three years is not available, we are unable to know for sure if this large amount
of records is abnormal or not.


However, from the information gathered we could still gain an idea of the amount of
sites that have Brown Hares present on them.


In 2008, eight sites were reported as having no Brown Hares present while seven gave
positive records, 2009 by comparison was more closely divided with seven sites
showing presence and 5 showing absence. 2010, however, showed almost the reverse
of the 2008 pattern, with the majority of sites showing presence (Nine sites with
Brown Hare present, four with absence).


The Chart to the right shows a
comparison        of      actual   sites
found to have Brown Hares
present or absent in each of the
three years (47%, 58% & 69%
respectively).


We can see from this that the
Merseyside sites picked by the
volunteers showed on average
just below 60% presence.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                     11                                  24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




4.2 Habitat Results:


During recording, surveyors were also asked to collect information on the habitats
that the Hares were found to be in. The habitat descriptions were largely varied and so
have been combined into ‘like’ groups (see “Notes on interpretation”):


    1. Arable Farmland
    2. Cultivated Meadow
    3. Pasture & Grassland
    4. Other


The amount of information provided also allowed for a degree of distinction between
short and long crop/grass.


The chart (right) compares the amount
of records found for each of the
categories, with details as follows;
Arable Farmland 68 (52%), Cultivated
Meadow        30     (23%),   Pasture   and
Grasslands 28 (21%) & Other 5 (4%)
records.




                                                   The chart to the left represents the
                                                   amount of records from habitats with
                                                   short or long vegetation, with 28
                                                   records noted as being taken in short
                                                   habitats (76%) and just 9 records
                                                   (24%) from tall-vegetated habitats.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                        12                                24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




4.3 Distribution and comparison:


The results of the 1km
squares             surveyed
(figure,      left),      were
collected from a good
coverage                    of
Merseyside, and also
included some surveys
in Wirral and the border
of West Lancashire.


The figure above right shows all the results collected through the 1km square surveys,
with white squares indicating less than 5 records and an increasing depth of red to
show higher concentrations.


The map was produced using MapInfo and also allows us to compare existing records
from other data sets.


                                                              The Brown Hare project
                                                              also      collected      casual
                                                              records     online      through
                                                               www.brownhares.org.uk.
                                                              The records collected for
                                                              the project in this way
                                                              added      to    the     survey
                                                              records show us a detailed
                                                              picture     of    the      total
                                                              distribution uncovered by
the project, and also allow us to see areas that could well be targeted in the future. The
map above shows the collated data from the project in the Merseyside and West
Lancashire area.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                     13                                        24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




The maps below show both presence (large map) and absence (smaller map) of
Brown Hares in 1km Squares, the map of presence also gives us an idea of species
density across the region, where darker red signifies the most records and white
highlights squares that have less than 5*.


These maps also help to show that some of the squares that were determined as
having no Hares present during this survey have previously been found with them
present. It may be that the species has been lost from the site due to localised
extinction, or that they have simply moved on to more suitable habitats.




  *Each record may contain sightings
  of more than one individual




Merseyside BioBank LRC                       14                            24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




The map above presents the current full data on Brown Hare distribution held by
Merseyside BioBank, including records of no presence.


As you can see there is a good coverage, but some areas with no records at all!


However, through using tools like MapInfo we can find these gaps in records, and
through working with experienced recorders and training up new ones we hope to fill
in as many as possible.


                                                      In comparison there are a total
                                                      of 1117 records of Brown Hare
                                                      now     on     the    Merseyside
                                                      BioBank database, 228 of these
                                                      are solely form the project, and
                                                      now make up 21% of our total
                                                      records (see chart left).




Merseyside BioBank LRC                    15                                      24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                              5.0 Evaluation & Conclusion


Based on the above results, it is apparent that the Brown Hare recording project
conducted over 2008, 2009 and 2010 was highly successful in meeting its aims (laid
out in Section 2.0), and produced a number of other useful observations.


5.1 Observations:


    •    Low presence on surveyed sites: the
         results show that at least 59% of the sites
         surveyed across Merseyside and West
         Lancashire have Brown Hares present,
         though we must consider that some
         Hares may have been missed. Taking
         into account that these sites may well
         have been picked for their higher than
         average likelihood of having Hares
         present, it is worrying that the amount of
         apparent negative sites is so high.


         This points to a need for conservation efforts, increasing public and landholder
         awareness, and promoting, beneficial land use and agri-environmental
         schemes in our region.


    •    Habitat observation: habitat information provided by the surveyors for positive
         records show that Brown Hares seem to strongly favour arable farmland
         (including ploughed) over other habitats (e.g. pasture & cultivated meadows).


         Though Brown Hares feed on young shoots, short grasses and crops they need
         a variety of habitats to survive; providing a year round food source, cover and
         an environment to bring up their young. It is thought that Hares tend to favour
         arable farmland due to the reduced amount of disturbance from livestock
         grazing. This also goes some way to explaining the much higher records of



Merseyside BioBank LRC                         16                                24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




         Hares seen in short grass or crop, as this is the prime source of their food at the
         time of year of the surveys.


         However, it must also be considered that the short vegetation allowed the
         Hares to be seen and so recorded, while Hares in taller vegetation were much
         harder to see and so were more likely to be missed.


5.2 Aims evaluation:


    •    Raise the profile of the Brown Hare in the region – This aim fits in well with
         getting more people involved, as we inevitably raise the awareness of the
         species and the issues surrounding that species and its conservation in the local
         area. Hopefully sparking additional interest that people may continue to spread
         their knowledge out into the community.


    •    Generate more records - This
         aim was highly successful with
         154         records   submitted,
         covering a large proportion of
         Merseyside, Wirral and West
         Lancashire.


         The records were very complete, containing not only abundance, but also
         meteorological conditions and habitat information, and along with the maps
         returned most records could be located very precisely (8-figure grid
         reference), and were generally of a high quality.


         Records were also generated covering other species, as some recorders choose
         to note additional Birds, Plants and Mammals while out on their surveys.
         While not the target of the project the records were still very welcome.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                       17                                     24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




    •    Working towards gathering population statistics - As part of a larger
         conservation project, the Merseyside surveys have been very successful, not
         only by meeting the aims described above, but will hopefully go further in the
         future by continuing to build awareness and generate records so we can better
         protect and conserve Brown Hares in our region.


    •    Involving people - A large number of volunteers took part in the training
         events, with many of them going on to do recording, generating increased
         general awareness of conservation issues regarding the species as well as the
         species ecology itself.


                                                       Those going on to do the
                                                       recording carried out surveys of
                                                       at least one 1km square, though
                                                       many did two or more, with some
                                                       repeating    their   surveys     in
                                                       subsequent years.


         The high level of uptake also indicates that there is a large amount of interest,
         enthusiasm and support in the Merseyside area that hopefully indicates a
         strong base of support for the project, and will lead to increased participation
         in the future.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                      18                                   24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                          6.0 Notes on interpretation of results


In several cases the results used in the graphs and charts presented in this report are
based on percentage and averaged data. To gain this information it has, at times,
meant grouping the submitted results into a standard format; in this there may be the
possibility of the loss of some information and a bias in some grouping. However, I
have, using my own judgement, done this as accurately as possible to minimise errors.


Due to the nature of the project and the non-random approach to assigning and
surveying squares the raw data cannot in most cases be statistically analysed. Some
trends have been examined, but should not be considered absolute without further
study using data more amenable to statistical analysis.




Merseyside BioBank LRC                     19                                  24/08/2010
Brown Hare Report: 2010




                                   7.0 Reference


Carreker, R.G. (1985) - Habitat suitability index models: Snowshoe hare.
DEFRA. (2004) – Explanatory notes to the Hunting Act 2004 Chapter 37.
Essex Biodiversity Partnership, (2004) – Hare today… gone tomorrow, Brown Hares
and illegal coursing in Essex
Hutchings, M.R. & Harris, S., (1996) – The current status of the brown hare (Lepus
europaeus) in Britain.
Natural England (2007) – Species Information Note SIN001, First Edition
Rogers, R (2008) – North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan (Brown Hare)


7.1 Useful websites:


http://www.arkive.org/brown-hare/lepus-europaeus/info.html
http://www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk/
http://www.lancswt.org.uk/
http://www.merseysidebiobank.org.uk/BrownHare/
http://www.merseysidebiodiversity.org.uk/
http://www.searchnbn.net/
http://www.ukbap.org.uk/ukplans.aspx?ID=410


The full text of the Hunting Act 2004 can be obtained from the HMSO website:
www.hmso.gov.uk/legislation/uk.htm

Mammal Society Fact sheet on the brown hare:
www.abdn.ac.uk/mammal/brown_hare.shtml




Merseyside BioBank LRC                      20                              24/08/2010

				
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