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Coursing no threat to Irish hare population say Queen’s academics

A research team at Queen’s University Belfast has revealed that the Irish hare population is not under threat from hare coursing.

A team, led by Dr Neil Reid, from the School of Biological Sciences assessed levels of hare mortality during coursing. They analysed records and independent video footage collected over 20 years to evaluate efforts made by the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) to improve animal welfare and decrease the number of hares killed.

Hare coursing is banned throughout Great Britain but is legal in the Republic of Ireland.

Each year the ICC captures about 6,000 hares from the wild for coursing within enclosed parks.

The Queen’s study published in the journal Animal Welfare, shows that when the ICC introduced compulsory muzzling of greyhounds during 1993 mortality dropped from 16% to 4%. Further reductions in mortality since then may be attributed to improved care in captivity.

Dr Reid said: “The most recent estimates of the hare population of Ireland suggest that mortality during coursing removes less than 0.1% of the total adult population annually. Therefore, at its current level, mortality during coursing is likely to have negligible effect.”

“Our findings support the efficacy of measures taken by the ICC to mitigate the impact of its activity on individual hares” said the Head of the School of Biological Sciences, Professor Ian Montgomery, who has led work on hares at Queen’s for over a decade. “Further research is required to evaluate the effects of temporarily removing hares from their source population and of returning coursed hares to the wild before the wider impact of coursing on wild hare populations can be fully determined.”

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
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