EU Directive 92/43/EEC (the Habitats Directive) requires Ireland to make a detailed report every six years on the conservation status of all listed species, including the hare. Ireland’s most recent report in 2019 included a comprehensive assessment of the range, population status, habitat and threats for the Irish hare. The report can be downloaded at https://www.npws.ie/publications/article-17-reports/article-17-reports-2019.
The 2019 report states that the Hare is found throughout the country from coastal habitats to upland heath and bog. The Hare is widespread and common in Ireland with a broad habitat niche and its overall conservation status at that time was assessed as favourable.
In addition to the reporting requirements of the EU Habitats Directive, data on the distribution of the hare is being collected continuously by the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the recent Atlas of Mammals in Ireland 2010-2015 provided a summary of the species’ range, demonstrating that it remains widespread across the country.
My Department commissioned a new assessment of the status of hare’s population in Ireland which took place using camera traps, over the winter of 2018/2019, before RHD2 was known to occur in the wild in Ireland. I hope that this report will be available for publication next month.
Given the outbreak of the RHD2 virus which was first confirmed in the wild in Ireland only last month and based on what we have been able to establish in that period, RHD2 appears to be relatively widespread. The virus is known to be highly contagious and easily spread and environmental contamination presents significant difficulties in terms of any biosecurity responses. I made the decision last month to suspend the licences issued to the Irish Coursing Club on behalf of its affiliated clubs to capture and tag hares for the 2019/20 hare coursing season which were due to come into effect on 10 August until a clearer understanding of the extent, spread and implications of the RHD2 virus emerges. I am keeping this mater under continuous review. I am reflecting too on the implication of this disease for the upcoming open season and I will make a decision in that regard shortly.