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IS NATURALISATION OF THE BROWN HARE IN IRELAND A THREAT TO THE ENDEMIC IRISH HARE?
Neil Reid and W. Ian Montgomery
Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy
Vol. 107B, No. 3 (December 2007), pp. 129-138
Published by: Royal Irish Academy
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40716308
Page Count: 10
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On islands, one of the greatest risks to native wildlife is the establishment of alien species. In Ireland, the Irish hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus), the only native lagomorph, may be at risk from competitive exclusion and hybridisation with naturalised brown hares (L. europaeus) that were introduced during the late nineteenth century. Pre-and post-breeding spotlight surveys during 2005 in the north of Ireland determined that brown hare populations are established in mid-Ulster and west Tyrone. In mid-Ulster, brown hares comprised 53%-62% of the hare population, with an estimated abundance of 700-2000 individuals between pre-and post-breeding periods. Comparison of habitat niches suggest that Irish and brown hares have comparable niche breadths that at times completely overlap, suggesting the potential for strong competition between the species. Anecdotal evidence suggests that both species may hybridise. Further research is urgently required to assess the degree of risk that naturalised brown hares pose to the Irish hare population and what action, if any, is needed to ensure the future ecological security and genetic integrity of the native species.
Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy © 2007 Royal Irish Academy