Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Question 1091 - Answered on 26th September, 2007
Eamon Gilmore: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the results of a national hare survey are available; and if the findings point to a further decrease in the size of the hare population or to a healthier and resurgent hare population bearing in mind that Irelandís red data book on vertebrates lists the hare as one of a number of species under threat from multiple factors, including hunting activities.
Question 1092 - Answered on 26th September, 2007
Eamon Gilmore: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will impose a suspension on coursing activities in the event that the hare survey indicates either a significant national decline in hare numbers or widespread localised disappearance of the species.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Gormley): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1091 and 1092 together.
The final report of the Status of Hares in Ireland ó Hare Survey of Ireland 2006/07, is available and may be downloaded from the website of the National Parks and Wildlife Service of  my Department [www.npws.ie/en/media/Media, 5119,en.IWM30].
The survey was carried out nationwide over two years and the results confirm that hares are widespread throughout the country. The national population was estimated at 233,000 hares in 2006 and 535,000 in 2007. The scale of this change between consecutive years reflects the ability of the hare to respond well to favourable breeding conditions and is consistent with recent surveys of the hare populations in Northern Ireland. The drivers for such population fluctuations are poorly understood, but are likely to include an interaction between weather conditions and land management practices.
The report also reviews the exploitation of hares through coursing and highlights the significant improvement in hare survival brought about through compulsory muzzling in 1993. While I am pleased that the improvements made by the Irish Coursing Club are having an effect, the results of the survey highlight the need for further research into the impacts of hare coursing at a local level.
The Irish Red Data Book for vertebrates was published in 1993 and my Department is at present working with the Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland to prepare an updated version, taking into account recent changes in the IUCN assessment system and the new data gathered for many of Irelandís vertebrate species.