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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
'Surprise' at brown hare numbers
A brown hare (picture: Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales)
The Countryside Council of Wales part-funded the year-long study
The brown hare population of mid and south west Wales may be recovering after years of decline, a study shows.

Officials said they were "surprised" at the number of sightings - 260 in Ceredigion, 60 in north Powys and five in Pembrokeshire.

They claim the figures are a "positive" sign there could be hare "hot-spots," despite the species being in heavy decline since the end of World War II.

There are thought to be around 800,000 brown hares in the UK.

Numbers dropped by an estimated 75% when farming methods became more intensive after the war.

Last year, people in Pembrokeshire, the old county of Montgomeryshire and Ceredigion were asked to report brown hare sightings because there was little or no information about the animals in those areas.

"Widespread"

Dr Lizzie Wilberforce, of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, said: "I am surprised by the numbers of hares spotted, although we didn't expect many in Pembrokeshire because the population is thought to be low there.

"Numbers seem quite widespread, but this data doesn't prove numbers are rising.

"However, there is enough evidence to show that there are certain hot-spot areas, and that the population could be recovering."

These include communities near Aberystwyth where further work to confirm a growth in population is planned.

Brown hares prefer a mixture of arable fields and pasture with hedges and ditches.

When the nights are shorter in late March, they can be seen in daylight hours.




SEE ALSO
Survey appeal to map brown hares
28 Mar 06 |  Mid Wales
Hare population in the spotlight
09 May 05 |  Mid Wales
Threatened hares 'now thriving'
08 Sep 04 |  Northern Ireland

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