It is hoped that the sight of a pure white hare on farmland in North Hampshire will act as a call to arms to farmers to help save the endangered brown hare.
An adult albino hare really is the rarest of the rare, because not only are they extremely unusual, but they rarely survive beyond the leveret stage because they are vulnerable to predators.
The sight of this one was the result of painstaking tracking by Peter Thompson, farmland advisor to the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), and is particularly poignant because brown hares have suffered a 75% decline since the 1960s, due to predation by foxes and loss of mixed farming.
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Mr Thompson said: ‘The last survey suggested that hares’ wintering numbers had dropped to around 800,000. The Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan proposes that our countryside should support at least two million animals in winter and our recent GWCT bag records suggest that we might be halfway to achieving this target.
‘In the eastern side of the country, including Yorkshire, they are doing particularly well. However, in the western side, including Wales, they are still showing a worrying decline.’
Mr Thompson adds: ‘There’s no doubt that set-aside benefited hares and its removal two years ago could have been disastrous, but the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, which is encouraging farmers to put in place voluntary measures to replace set-aside, could mitigate this loss and boost hare numbers if more farmers get involved in the campaign.’