Conflicts between field sports, animal welfare and species conservation are frequently contentious. In Ireland, the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) competitively tests the speed and agility of two greyhounds by using a live hare as a lure. Each coursing club is associated with a number of discrete localities, known as preserves, which are managed favourably for hares including predator control, prohibition of other forms of hunting such as shooting and poaching and the maintenance and enhancement of suitable hare habitat. We indirectly tested the efficacy of such management by comparing hare abundance within preserves to that in the wider countryside. In real terms, mean hare density was 18 times higher, and after controlling for variance in habitat remained 3 times higher, within ICC preserves than the wider countryside. Whilst we cannot rule out the role of habitat, our results suggest that hare numbers are maintained at high levels in ICC preserves either because clubs select areas of high hare density and subsequently have a negligible effect on numbers or that active population management positively increases hare abundance. The Irish hare Lepus timidus hibernicus Bell, 1837 is one of the highest priority species for conservation action in Ireland and without concessions for its role in conservation, any change in the legal status of hare coursing under animal welfare grounds, may necessitate an increase in Government subsidies for conservation on private land together with a strengthened capacity for legislation enforcement.
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Reid, N., Magee, C. & Ian Montgomery, W. Integrating field sports, hare population management and conservation. Acta Theriol 55, 61–71 (2010). https://doi.org/10.4098/j.at.0001-7051.030.2009
- driven counts
- hunting with dogs
- Lepus timidus
- mountain hare
- population density