A law banning the intentional killing and injuring of mountain hares without a licence came into effect today, March 1st.
The bill was passed in Holyrood last July and protects the species, Scotland’s only native hare, year round with only licenced kills now permitted.
Previously a licence would only be required during the closed season, between March and July, but this will now be the case throughout the whole year.
The law, part of the wider Animals and Wildlife Scotland Act 2020, was implemented due to population decline over the past fifty years.
Culls by landowners have been a major contributor to this as hares carry ticks harmful to both grouse and sheep and other mammals.
The new licensing arrangement will be overseen by NatureScot, with licences issued only under certain circumstances, such as concerns for public health or protection of crops and timber.
Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s head of wildlife management said: “Mountain hares are an important and valued species in the Scottish hills. This increased protection will help ensure healthy populations of mountain hares can be found and enjoyed in the mountains, while giving some recourse when there is a need to prevent damage being caused to saplings or sensitive habitats.
“We are also working with several partner organisations to continue to improve our understanding of mountain hare populations across Scotland, along with other work to support their conservation status.”
Those found guilty of breaking the new law could face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.