Hares in the spotlight as researchers study impact of intensive farming
The impact of intensive farming on Ireland's wildlife will be under the spotlight in a new survey of the country's hare population.
This is the first such survey of Irish hare numbers in more than a decade, with the last exercise finding that the population was 530,000 in 2007.
Scientists fear that there is a downward trend in the wild hare population.
A greater focus on grassland management, along with habitat loss due to the drainage of wetlands and forestry plantings, has reduced the hare's natural habitat, hitting numbers.
Quantifying this fall is the aim of the current survey which is being carried out by the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC), in association with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Queen's University Belfast.
Members of the public are invited to submit any hare sightings to the NBDC via online record forms. The researchers are also using camera trapping devices and other technology to build a profile of population densities around the country.
The survey will run till the end of the spring, with the final statistics published next summer.
There are two varieties of hare in Ireland, the Irish or mountain hare, and the European brown hare which is found in mid-Ulster and west Tyrone.