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East Lancashire project proves to be a hare restorer
A PROJECT to save Lancashire’s “iconic” Brown Hare is enabling more of them to run fast, free and wild across the moors above Clitheroe, Burnley and Oswaldtwistle.
Since the 1960’s the population of the larger and handsomer cousin of the rabbit has plummeted by 82 per cent across the United Kingdom because of changed farming practices and hedgerow destruction.
Now the North West Brown Hare Project is working with East Lancashire farmers and others across the county to boost numbers and in the last two years recorded sightings show that the scheme is working.
Alan Wright, from the Wildlife Trust of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside, said its Facebook page had recently been inundated with pictures of the animal, resident in Britain for almost 2,000 years.
He said: “There used to be about five million hares in the UK but that had dropped to around a million by the 1960’s because of changes to farming practices.
“There were thousands in Lancashire, where it was an iconic piece of local wildlife, running across the plains and on the moors above Clitheroe, Oswaldtwistle and Burnley.
“For the past two years we have been working with farmers in East and West Lancashire to create more hare-friendly habitats and hedgerows where they live nest, and breed.
“We have a had a really good response from farmers who seem to much prefer hares to rabbits which are far more destructive.
“They are secretive, mainly nocturnal animals, which are normally seen at dawn and dusk and are beautiful to watch running wild and free.
“They really do go mad in March at the beginning of the mating season and can be seen boxing in the fields. But it’s not, as we used to think, males fighting over the females but females boxing of the males till they are ready to mate.
“It’s great to see them coming back to Lancashire in numbers especially in the moors around the Pennines.
“But there is still a problem with people with bright lights, guns and lurchers going “Lamping” and poaching for them and we need help to be vigilant against this.”
Anyone wanting more information on them or volunteers and farmers seeking help conserve the protected species should go to the website www.merseysidebiobank.org.uk/BrownHare.