Now is the perfect time to spot the stunning Mountain Hare. Between December and March they will be sporting their beautiful white coats and will be unmistakable. Unless we have a flurry of snow they really do stand out at this time of year.  In contrast, their summer coat is brown or grey-brown with white undersides allowing them to blend into their surroundings very easily.

The Peak District is privileged to have the only population of mountain hares in Great Britain outside Scotland and a small-introduced population on the Isle of Man. They are a familiar site to walkers and visitors exploring the Dark Peak moorlands around us. They prefer to occupy heather and mixed moor, wet heath, blanket bog and grassland. We are lucky to have them literally living on our doorstep as the area boasting regular sitings ranges from Bleaklow and Kinder in the west to the Howden and Derwent Moors here in the east.

The present population is descended from releases in the northern Peak District made for sporting purposes around 1870-1882. They suffered a significant decline in the 1960’s due to a severe winter but since then their numbers have been increasing. Peak District mountain hares were regularly hunted with packs of hounds until hunting with dogs was made illegal. Nowadays harsh weather is probably their most significant threat together with foxes, moorland fires and traffic fatalities along busy roads (such as the Snake and Woodhead Passes), which cut through their territory.

If you are hoping to spot a Mountain Hare then Fairholmes Visitor Centre is a good starting point. Here you can meet the Peak District Rangers who have a wealth of information about their habitat and recent spottings. It is also a great place to start your walk from, with good access to the moorland around Derwent and Howden.

Mountain Hare Lepus Timidus
Identification Features

  • Medium sized mammal
  • Large linear ears about 1.5 times as long as the head with black tips
  • A very short tail which is white all over
  • Fur is has a dusky brown colour in summer but is white or creamy grey white in winter
  • They do not disappear down burrows
  • Bigger than a rabbit
  • Very fast moving animals

Mountain hares are herbivores and are associated in Derbyshire with the gritstone moors. They are distinctively white or mottled white between November and April and stand out well amongst the surrounding vegetation, when it is not snowy.

Like brown hares, they have shallow depressions in long grass/crops known as forms.

Let us know if you see one!

Helen

(Photo credit: Guy Badham Photography)