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Factors associated with hare mortality during coursing

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Abstract:

Hare coursing is a widespread but controversial activity. In an attempt to reduce hare mortality and mitigate the activity's impact on hare welfare, the Irish Coursing Club introduced measures including the compulsory muzzling of dogs in 1993. However, the efficacy of these measures remained the subject of heated debate. Official records, corroborated by independent video evidence, were used to assess the fate of individual Irish hares (Lepus timidus hibernicus) during coursing events from 1988–2004. Muzzling dogs significantly reduced levels of hare mortality. In courses using unmuzzled dogs from 1988/89–1992/93 mean hare mortality was 15.8%, compared to 4.1% in courses using muzzled dogs from 1993/94–2003/04. Further reductions in mortality could not be accounted for by muzzling dogs, supporting the efficacy of other factors such as improved hare husbandry. The duration of the head start given to the hare prior to the release of the dogs significantly affected the outcome of the course. Hares that were killed had head starts of greater duration than those that were chased but survived, suggesting the former may have been slower. The selection of hares by assessment of their running ability may provide means to reduce hare mortality during courses further. Our findings support the efficacy of measures taken to mitigate the impact of coursing on individual hares. However, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of removing hares from the source population and of returning coursed hares to the wild before the wider impact of coursing on wild hare populations can be determined.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; FIELD SPORTS; HUNTING WITH DOGS; LEPUS TIMIDUS; MOUNTAIN HARE; WELFARE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2007

ufaw/aw/2007/00000016/00000004/art00002
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