Irish Hare at risk of extinction from hunting and coursing


There are renewed calls for a ban on hare coursing and hare hunting, following a warning from wildlife experts that the Irish Hare is “in trouble”, with dwindling numbers.

A feature on RTE Radio 1’s Mooney Goes Wild show focused on the translocation of hares from Dublin Airport to areas around Ireland where they are “becoming extinct”.

Programme presenter Derek Mooney told listeners that while hares are thriving at Dublin Airport, “their numbers elsewhere around the country are dwindling”.

Speaking on the show, ecologist Dr. Karina Dingerkus said that “over the last 50 years, numbers have declined significantly.”

She said that the National Parks and Wildlife Service have commissioned Queen’s University Belfast to carry out a hare survey this year and next to get a population estimate.

“We know that hare populations do fluctuate naturally but we don’t know by how much,” Dr. Dingerkus stated. “We certainly know that numbers have declined.”

Later in the programme, she added: “We don’t see very many…Certainly over the past 50 years, we know numbers have dropped dramatically…they’re in trouble…we do know that they have been dropping over a long period of time.”

Mooney Goes Wild reporter Terry Flanagan noted that “there is an overall trend over the past number of years and that trend is downwards.”

While threats to the Irish Hare were discussed on the show – changes in agricultural practices, predators, road deaths, parasites/disease – there was not, disappointingly, a single mention of one of the most significant threats to the species: the hunting and coursing of hares.

Hare coursing – shamefully licensed by Minister Josepha Madigan and the National Parks and Wildlife Service – is responsible for major interference with the species during seven months of the year (August to February). Thousands of hares are snatched from the wild in nets, held in captivity for months, manhandled, fed an unnatural diet and eventually forced to run for their lives from pairs of greyhounds. Every coursing season, hares are injured and killed on coursing fields, and those who survive the ordeal are at risk of later dying as a result of stress-related capture myopathy.

Hares are not only under threat from cruel coursers, but also from shooters and hunters with packs of hounds.

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service website, the permitted “hunting period” for the Irish Hare runs from “the 26th day of September in each year and ending on the 28th day of February in the year immediately following that year.” The “manner of hunting” is “shooting with firearms; coursing at regulated coursing matches; hunting with packs of beagles and harriers.”

This latest acknowledgement that the Irish Hare is in trouble, with numbers having “dropped dramatically”, should set alarm bells ringing in Minister Madigan’s office and at the NPWS. They should learn from what happened to the curlew, a bird now on the brink of extinction in Ireland.

It wasn’t until 2012, when its numbers had plummeted by up to 96%, that a ban on curlew shooting was finally put in place. Announcing the long overdue ban, the then Minister Jimmy Deenihan referred to the massive fall in curlews as “a rather dramatic reduction”.

Listen to the Mooney Goes Wild show here.


It is now more clear than ever that the Irish Hare must be given full protection. Urgently contact Minister Josepha Madigan and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to demand an immediate ban on hare coursing, hare shooting and hare hunting.

Minister Josepha Madigan
Minister for Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht
Phone: +353 (0)1 631 3800

John Fitzgerald
Director, National Parks and Wildlife Service
Phone: +353 (0)1 888 3242


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Featured image credit Txema Aguilar Sanchez, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Campaigning for an end to bloodsports in Ireland. Click to see author's profile.

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