Hare, European brown hare
Lepus europaeus occidentalis
Cost recovery and community control
The European brown hare was introduced from England in 1851 and has now spread throughout most grassland areas in this country.
Female hares have two to eight litters a year, with an average litter size of two.
Why are they a problem?
Hares are a problem in orchards and on horticultural and forestry blocks, where they eat tree bark and young shoots. Even a single hare can cause severe damage to newly-planted shelter belts, young trees, cuttings, crops and plant nurseries.
Hare damage to trees is distinctive. Small trees are usually bitten off at a 45 degree angle, and uneaten chips of wood and bark are scattered round the base of the tree.
What can I do?
Hare control work should be carried out before young trees or crops are planted. Hares do not generally take baits so it is not possible to poison them effectively. Shooting is the main control method, but must be repeated regularly to prevent numbers building up again.
Recommended control methods
You must have a licence before using a firearm. Use a gun with extreme care, especially where there are likely to be people or animals in the vicinity. Remember that a .22 bullet has a 3 km range.
Shooting at night with the aid of a spotlight is generally more effective, but at certain times of the year, especially May to early June, hares can be seen during the day.
Night shooting is the most effective method of controlling hares. Look for animals feeding and for their eyes which shine red at night.
Hares will not come out during high winds or heavy rain, but in warm conditions they will feed during light drizzle. Approach the block quietly, into the wind if possible. Move along the edge of the cover shining a light ahead with steady sweeps. Do not shine the light beyond shooting range and ensure you don’t illuminate yourself, as this disturbs the hares.
Once an animal is sighted hold it in the outer edge of the light until ready to shoot. If it starts to move, don’t chase after it. Take the light off it for a few seconds, then put it back on the same spot (hares often stop once the light has been taken off them). If it runs to a fence or cover, follow it with the light, as it will invariably stop for a second before going through a fence or into cover.
Type of firearm
A scope sighted .22 rifle is recommended. Subsonic ammunition can be used in conjunction with a sound suppressor. This reduces the noise of a discharging rifle to a low 'pop' so animals and people are not disturbed or frightened. Only subsonic ammunition, which can be purchased from most sports stores, should be used with a sound suppressor.
Type of spotlight
Use a reasonably powerful lightweight spotlight. A helmet or head-mounted light is preferable, but a light fitted with a bracket on which the muzzle of the rifle can be rested is satisfactory. A simple bracket fitted to the top of the hand held light, using a 5 cm length of polythene hose cut in half lengthways, will fit most rifle muzzles. A bracket made of steel reinforcing rod bent to the correct shape and covered with plastic hose or tape is also satisfactory.
The most suitable power source for the light is a 12-volt motorcycle battery carried in a pouch on the belt, over the shoulder or on the back. Always keep the battery the right way up, preferably in the plastic bag, so no acid is spilt on clothes or skin.
Find out more: Download pest animal control publications
For further information or control advice please contact one of our Biosecurity Officers at the Northland Regional Council on 0800 002 004:
- Whāngārei: Steve Henderson
- Dargaville: Carl Cooper and Paul Ralph
- Kaitāia: Mike Knight