‘Hare’ raising project in Mid-Ulster

A QUEEN’s University student is carrying out research into the European hare in Mid-Ulster and how it is threatening our native species.

Anthony Hallam, who is originally from the Rhondda Valley in Wales, is in the first year of a PhD on the distribution of the European hare in Northern Ireland and the impact on the native Irish hare.

The three year course of study has been funded by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Anthony has been carrying out fieldwork in the area spanning Dungiven, Portglenone, Magherafelt, Cookstown, Dungannon and the Sperrins region.

“So far we have been surveying Mid-Ulster at night to try to discover the extent of the European and Irish hares. It’s easy to tell the difference between the two because the Irish hare is a russet brown with a round head and the European hare is a mottled dirty brown,” Anthony explained.

European hares are found in Britain and continental Europe, but they have been highly successful in invading countries beyond their native range in south-west Europe and parts of Asia. It is thought to have colonised Mid-Ulster in the 1800s.

The fieldwork involves Anthony carrying out night time surveys standing on the back of a pick-up truck armed with a spotlight, collecting data on the hares.

A previous study from Queen’s University, confirmed that the Irish hare is under threat from the European ‘brown’ hare. The research found that increasing numbers of the brown hare have set up home in Mid-Ulster. The study also suggested that disease and parasite transmission and climate change may give the European hare an edge over the native species.

A large part of the Wales student’s current project is on genetics and parasites and he is appealing to people in the Mid-Ulster region to assist him.

“If anyone sees dead hares lying around, I’d be pleased if they could let me know. They can even bag them up and I will pick them up because later on, I will be looking at genetics and parasites as part of the PhD,” he said.

Anyone who can assist Anthony is asked to email him: ahallam01@qub.ac.uk or phone 07511 646429.