Mad March Hares

02/03/201813:0001/03/2021 09:28Leave a Comment

Spring is a good time to see Brown hares in the countryside. Although normally nocturnal and cautious of daytime predators, the warmer weather makes them more active and they can be seen chasing each other in fields and meadows alongside the edges of woods and hedgerows. The famous ‘boxing’ activity is between a male and a female hare, not two males challenging each other, with an unreceptive female fending off a passionate male. Brown hares are the fastest land mammals in England and can reach speeds of up to nearly 75kph (45mph). Their main predators are foxes and buzzards and the hares use their fast running abilities to escape.

The Brown, or European, hare (Lepus europaeus) is common in Staffordshire and feeds on a variety of vegetation. As this includes agricultural produce, hares can cause problems in farming areas. They rest in depressions called ‘forms’ and, unlike rabbits, do not construct burrows. Brown hares are not native to Britain. There is no fossil evidence to them being in the country before the land-bridge connection to France was broken about 8,500 years ago after sea levels had risen following the melting of ice sheets from the last Ice Age. The earliest archaeological finds of Brown hare bones are from Roman sites, this suggests that they were introduced into Britain about 2,000 years ago. The smaller Mountain hares (Lepus timidus) are native to Britain but their distribution is restricted to upland areas. They graze mainly on heather and grasses, and also their fur changes in colour from grey brown in summer to white in winter. Mountain hares do not occur in Staffordshire and the nearest populations are in the moorlands of Derbyshire.

Written by Glenn Roadley (Curator, Natural Sciences)

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