Brown hares are often seen in fields (especially if you’re on the train). Native to Asia, they have lived in England since Roman times. Larger than rabbits with bigger and longer black-tipped ears, unlike rabbits that live in brurows, hares live above ground and rest in ‘forms’ (little shallow burrows) and run in a zig-zag direction at fast speeds to escape animals (mostly foxes) trying to eat them.
Mostly nocturnal, hares tend to live alone although they do of course mate. If you see two ‘boxing hares’, this is usually a female hare fighting off a male hare that she’s not interested in! Most hares only live a few years, although a female hare may have a few litters a year (which are weaned within weeks). Due to eating cereals, hares are more often found in eastern England and quite rare in southwest England.
Although not endangered, hares are at risk from modern farming methods like machinery and pesticides, and are also the only game species with no closed season, so are frequently hunted through the year. Mountain hares live in northern England and Scotland, with their snow turning white in winter, to match their surroundings.
how to help wild hares
As with all wildlife, live a simple sustainable life. If it’s single-use plastic or made with oil, try to find something else (or don’t buy it). The more of us that try to do this, the better for all creatures and the planet.
If you’re a farmer, visit Farm Wildlife to learn how to protect existing habitats, create field boundaries and wet features, and habitats for seeds and flowers, all of which make better habtiats for native wildlife. Leave quiet undisturbed cover for raising leverets, and some areas of grass uncut and ungrazed for hiding (and to escape from harvesting machinery). You can contact local wildlife-friendly farming experts.
Don’t hunt hares. League Against Cruel Sports runs the campaign against hunting, coursing and poaching of hares. Before the hunting ban for England and Wales, one in three hunts was for hares.
Read The Secret Life of the Mountain Hare. This book by Scottish writer Andy Howard looks at this captivating creature in Britain’s upland landscape. These shy charming creatures need our help, as do all wild creatures in our beautiful landscape. Iolo Williams calls Andy ‘a stunning wildlife photographer at the very peak of his profession’.