A hare raiser best to enjoy
Despite being an annoyance, they have mythical appeal
Coming upon a hare nestled behind a tuft of grass recently made me recall the difficulties I had in coping with them when I first planted large numbers of trees in the 1990s.
Not only did they sharpen their teeth on the young trees, but so clean and tidy was the cut that, in many cases, it looked as if someone had nipped off the leaders and side branches with secateurs. They even nibbled at the bark on the marker pegs I had laid out as a guide for the fencing and, at times, I felt that this was a battle the hares would win.
The damage the hares caused each night and early morning was so severe that we had to stop planting until fencing with rabbit wire was completed. This did not totally eliminate the damage as hares can jump an astonishing two metres but most did not bother.
I then bought a lurcher and walked through the plantations with him every two or three days.
Any hares that had jumped into the planted area were then given a chance to flee or end up in the cooking pot -- and this reduced the damage to acceptable levels.
Although I still enjoy a day's rough shooting, I cannot bring myself to shoot a hare. I don't really know why this is so, other than perhaps it is because of the mythology associated with them and their extraordinary appeal. They are, after all, one of our few truly wild creatures that still manage to survive in the farmed countryside.
Lepus timidus hibernicus, or the Irish hare, is a truly amazing animal that can reach speeds of up to 40mph, has 360 vision and can even swim up to a mile.
Hares can produce up to four litters of 8-10 leverets each year and, unlike rabbits, their young are born fully developed.