I’ve long had a soft spot for Mountain Hares, and with Easter almost upon us it seemed like a good time to write a potted history of them in Shetland – and that’s to be found in the latest Spring issue of the very lovely 60 North magazine.
My first Mountain Hares were seen many years ago in the Scottish Highlands – in their natural range. I was bowled away by their character, their sheer chutzpah and presence on the hills – their faith in their camouflage means they allow a close (but always respectful) approach. They’ve an elegance their more angular cousins, Brown Hares, don’t quite have.
Ironic then that it’s increasingly hard these days to see Mountain Hares in much of mainland Scotland – they’re shot on sight by many a gamekeeper on many a grouse moor, in the belief that this will help to reduce incidence of a tick-borne disease that affects Red Grouse – which grouse, of course, those keepers are protecting only for them to be shot later in the year in the name of sport.
There’s no grouse-shooting here in Shetland, no gamekeepers, and a generally high regard for the wildlife that’s all around us. Our Mountain Hares are the descendants of those introduced to the islands some 100 years ago, and they’re mercifully unpersecuted. Any day I see a Mountain Hare here is a good day. And you can read their full story in 60 North at the moment…