By: Blonde Two
My new book’s character, Ignatius Bowerman, hunts hares (he has to because that is what the Dartmoor legend of Bowerman’s Nose dictates). I wish that he didn’t because I love them. It is a happy day indeed when I spot a hare, there are some lovely ones at Norm’s farm in New Zealand, but I never thought I would be lucky enough to see mountain hares.
Lepus timidus (meaning ‘shy’) have been with us much longer than the brown hare Lepus europaeus. In Britain, they are only found at altitudes above 500 metres and their population is in disturbing decline. Sadly, they are sometimes shot for sport. There is some excellent information from the Hare Preservation Trust here.
It was Mr B2 who spotted our first hare. We were mid peat hag and I was concentrating on where I was putting my feet. He was obviously looking up more, because he spotted the first hare almost as soon as we had clambered down into our initial hole (hares by the way, do not dig burrows like rabbits). I started to pay more attention after that and sure enough, five or so hares popped their heads up as we approached, and bounded off across the moor as we got closer. They weren’t winter white but had white under-bellies and looked a bit leaner and smaller than their brown counterparts. They were also very nimble.
It was one of the most exciting wildlife encounters I have ever had, and definitely worth braving the rain and the sticky peat for. Now if only I could find a red squirrel in the wild I would be a happy Cairngorms Blonde!