Can you tell a Mad March Hare from an Easter Bunny? Now spring has arrived, The Mammal Society is appealing for the public to record and report all sightings of a wild rabbit or hare. Hares may be declining in parts of the UK, while rabbits have been hit by myxomatosis and other viral diseases, says the Mammal Society. People are being asked to send in photographs of rabbits and hares to help map the UK population, whether it be in a London park, a Norfolk field, or on a Scottish mountain.
Dr Fiona Mathews, the new chair of The Mammal Society, says, ‘Rabbits and hares are easy to spot, particularly in spring when vegetation is low. People tend to assume that because they see them, these animals must be everywhere. In fact, some areas have very low populations and we need to find out whether they are suffering the same declines as many other farmland species. They are part of the ecosystem and lots of other animals depend on them, either through grazing of habitats or as a food source for foxes or birds of prey.’
The Mammal Society is producing the first National Mammal Atlas in over 20 years. This will provide vital baseline data on mammal distribution, which will support future conservation and research projects. Sightings can be uploaded via The Mammal Society website or via the dedicated App, ‘Mammal Tracker’. Whenever possible, please also submit a photograph to allow your sighting to be verified by an expert.
Derek Crawley, who is co-ordinating the new atlas, explains how to tell a hare from a rabbit, ‘Rabbits and hares are quite straightforward to tell apart. Hares are usually solitary or seen in pairs, whereas rabbits are often found in social groups. Hares are larger, have long limbs and lollop along whereas the rabbit has a bobbing gait. They usually look skinny compared with the rounder shape of a rabbit. The ears are also distinctive: those of hares are longer and have black tips. Finally, the eyes of hares are amber whereas rabbit eyes are dark brown. If you are lucky enough to spot a rare mountain hare, these have grey coats in summer and are white in the winter, and their ears do not have black tips.”
So, cameras at the ready and be sure to record any hare and rabbit sightings whilst out on your iFootpath rambles...
3 April 2015