Permanent Ban for Hare Coursing in Northern Ireland
A permanent ban on hare coursing is to come into into effect on Wednesday.
The environment minister announced new legislation banning the practice from 17 August.
Hare coursing is the pursuit of a hare by a pair of hunting dogs, often greyhounds, and is common in rural Northern Ireland.
Critics have consistently argued against the cruelty of the sport and it has been illegal on a temporary basis for a number of years.
But now the ban is permanent and makes it an offence to organise, participate or attend a hare coursing event.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood was pleased to see the law formalised.
“Hare coursing events should not take place in a modern, progressive, civilised society. We all have a responsibility to protect our wildlife and certainly I want to do everything in my power to do that,” he said.
“While hare coursing events in Northern Ireland have been prevented for a number of years on a temporary basis, the ban I am introducing is a permanent one and a positive step forward.”
The new legislation is part of the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act, which will become law on 17 August as well.
The Countryside Alliance, which champions rural sports, last year promised to challenge the legislation as it made its way through the assembly.
First Published 17 August 2011 by BBC Northern Ireland website.
Irish Hare under threat from ‘European Brown’ Hare
The Irish hare is under threat from the European ‘brown’ hare, according to a study from Queen’s University.
But Dr Neil Reid from Quercus (Queen’s University’s Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science), said: “Our native hare remains vulnerable to another serious threat – that of the invading European hare.”
European hares are found in Britain and continental Europe, but they have been highly successful in invading many countries beyond their native range in south-west Europe and parts of Asia.
There have been many studies on their impact on native species. Dr Reid reviewed these studies to get a clearer picture of how much of a threat the invading species might be to the Irish hare.
The study, published in the international journal Biological Invasions, suggested that European hares exhibit strong competition for habitat space and food resources with native species, most notably other hare species.
It also warns that disease and parasite transmission and climate change may give the invading European hare an edge over our native species.
Dr Reid added: “The Irish hare represents an evolutionary unique lineage, which is restricted to Ireland where it has been present since before the last glacial maximum, making it one of our few native mammal species”.
“Hence, it has been isolated for 30,000-60,000 years. So the discovery that both species are hybridising in the wild is very worrying.”
A panel of experts, from the Lagomorph Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an authority on threatened species, signed a foreword to accompany the paper.
They described it as an urgent call for further research and the development of a European hare Invasive Species Action Plan and Eradication Strategy.
It was feared that the Irish hare would lose its protection in Northern Ireland after the Environment Committee decided against putting it on a protection schedule last year.
This decision was later reversed.
The protection order began in 2003 when it was discovered that hare numbers had declined. They have since stabilised.
The Irish hare attracted major conservation concern following a sustained population decline in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s.
First Published 29 March 2011 on the BBC News website.
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