The temporary ban on the killing, taking or sale of Irish hares has been renewed in Northern Ireland.
A controversial ban on hare coursing was introduced last year
Environment Minister Angela Smith made the announcement on Wednesday.
She said she was aware of "the depth of feeling that my decision to renew the Special Protection Order will cause to interest groups involved".
"However, I have given this matter a lot of thought and looked carefully at the arguments from the objectors," said the minister.
"I have concluded that there continues to be merit in providing special protection for the Irish hare, pending the outcome of the review of the Wildlife Order."
She said she was very encouraged by the results of a 2004 survey into the Irish hare population but it did not necessarily indicate a general recovery in the population.
The ban will be introduced by a special protection order under the Game Preservation Act (NI) 1928, for the period 19 January 2005 to 31 March 2005.
The renewal was welcomed by the League Against Cruel Sports.
Chief Executive Douglas Batchelor said it was "a victory for all those who value and treasure the Irish hare".
"Our supporters among the public and politicians of all parties will welcome this news, but will continue to fight for a permanent ban on hare coursing in Northern Ireland," he said.
"The league and its supporters were at the forefront of the successful campaigns to ban hare coursing in Scotland and in England and Wales and we look forward to achieving the same in Northern Ireland."
Last year, Ms Smith, who campaigned against blood sports in the past, said her personal views played no part in her announcements on hare coursing.