Wiltshire is smothered with brown hares. They are everywhere I go. All over the farmland. Which makes me wonder whether or not the hare is considered a pest species here. They do after all feed on agricultural crops.
Of course, they are particularly visible right now, as it is their breeding season. Hanging out in groups. Lolloping around together. The females boxing the pesky males. Ordinarily they are solitary, and so perhaps would not seem so numerous. But there is a lot of game-keeping around here, which means much predator control, which will obviously help out with hare productivity.
So, my research tells me that yes, the hare is considered an agricultural pest. But wait, there are so many conflicts regarding the hare.
– The Brown hare has no legal protection in the UK. For a species who’s numbers are historically low, this seems quite shocking.
– It is the only British species that does not have a shooting close season (other than in good old Scotland). This means it can be legally shot all year round.
– It’s demise in the UK is recognised though. It is therefore a Priority Species for conservation and has its own BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan).
– It is believed that the Brown hare was introduced to the British Isles by the Romans approximately 2000 years ago. So it’s likely not even a native species!
So, the Brown hare is a BAP species, a pest species, and a quarry species. Hmm.
Putting all of that confusion to one side, the bounty of wonderful hares in Wiltshire attracts attention from some least desirables. Hare coursers. Vermin of society. They apparently come from all over the south of England and Wales. It is a vile sport, hobby, past time. And surprisingly was only banned as recently as 2005. Barbaric.
It’s not just a problem for hares. These revolting people trash farmland. They have no respect for life nor livelihoods. They are a pest species.
In my roaming through byways, in search of Stone-curlews, I see many obstacles put in place by farmers with the hope to obstruct unwanted and uninvited offroaders. They dig ditches around the fields. They pile mounds high. They lay enormous trees and logs. And they repair all the damage inflicted to their fences and gates and crops.
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An enormous log across a public footpath. Walkers can still get by, but not trespassing off-roading cars/trucks. Ditches and banks are dug/built along field margins.