Hares may be extinct on Bull Island, say animal welfare group
ANIMAL welfare campaigners have expressed fears that hares have become extinct on Bull Island in Dublin.
The Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports (CACS) stated last night the disappearance of hares was "an ominous development" as the nature reserve had been synonymous with the iconic Irish hare for generations.
The campaign seeks to protect hares in the wild, including opposing using hares as lures for greyhounds at coursing events.
The campaign's spokesman John Fitzgerald said the North Bull Island Wildlife website revealed that no hares have been spotted on the island since June 2014.
He cited a statement on the website that the native Irish hare "was once abundant on the island but is now on the verge of extinction for the second time in recent decades.
"In 2014 only one animal was reported up to the end of May 2014 then two were observed in June. No hares have been recorded since June despite extensive searches."
The disappearance of hares from the island was attributed to disturbance by humans and dogs, with other environmental factors playing a less significant role.
"The absence of the Irish hare from this internationally recognised nature reserve must surely be a matter of concern for our politicians," said Mr Fitzgerald.
The campaign opposes the licensing of live netting of hares around Ireland each year for coursing events involving greyhounds.
No netting is allowed in nature reserves such as Bull Island.
"The demise of the Irish hare on the North Bull Island is all the more shocking and unacceptable given that the island has the most designations of any site in Ireland," Mr Fitzgerald added.
It is a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive, a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve, a National Nature Reserve and is part of the Natura 2000 Network, he said.
"We have urged the Department of Arts and Heritage to facilitate the reintroduction of hares to the North Bull Island and to allocate the necessary resources to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to enhance their protected status on the island," he said.
Hares were so numerous on bull island up to the 1960s that groups of more than 20 hares were not uncommon.
But vastly increased levels of disturbance following the completion of the causeway in 1964 led to a sharp decline in numbers, but 50 to 100 were still present to the mid-1970s.