Hare we go as crooks put wildlife in retreat

The impact of the activities of hare coursers in the Shropshire countryside is highlighted in a new book by dairy farmer and author Roger Evans.

"How Now?" is a diary covering the period from January 2018 to April this year, and comprises Roger's observations and anecdotes about many aspects of rural life, including the changes he has seen in the local wildlife.

And a continuing theme is the wholesale disappearance of hares from the countryside around his farm and the changes in the behaviour of the few left as a result of persecution.

"The local wildlife groups are strangely quiet and inactive on the subject, which I find odd," he writes in January 2018.

"If I were to plough up some lapwing nests, or if someone was after badgers, there would be a public outcry, and they would be leading it. Why the double standards?

"The strangest thing of all is that the hare is such a lovely inoffensive creature compared with a badger.

"In the same way, it's the easy option to target farmers. Much easier, for example, than looking out for hare coursers, who largely live beyond the law and who have scant regard for anybody."

And Roger, who farms near Bishop's Castle, tells in November 2018 how he texted the pheasant keeper after the first day of the pheasant shooting season when the beaters had been at work, to see how many hares he had spotted.

"Five years ago I remember the keeper texted back and said, 'You have 130.' That was a memorable day. This year he didn't text, he phoned, he was indignant. 'We didn't see one.'"

However by February 2020 Roger reports one or two hopeful signs of the beginnings of a recovery, with sightings of a few hares, increased police activity, and locals being more vigilant and taking vehicle numbers.

Another significant rural development he records is the rising numbers of birds of prey, including red kites – once unknown in Shropshire – with a consequent impact on the fortunes of ground-nesting birds.

"Do you want your grandchildren to see a world dominated by carrion crows and other winged predators or would you like to be able to show them skylarks and lapwings, or let them hear the cry of a curlew? It's a very simple choice," he writes.

"How Now?" is published by Ludlow publishing outfit Merlin Unwin Books and costs £14.99.

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