From 1 March 2021, it will be illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take mountain hares in Scotland without a specific licence

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From 1 March 2021, it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure or take mountain hares in Scotland at any time, unless a licence is obtained.

Previously, a licence was required during the closed season, but this will now be the case throughout the whole year.

The new licensing arrangement will be overseen by NatureScot, with licences issued only under certain circumstances, such as concerns for public health or protection of crops and timber.

Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s head of wildlife management said: “Mountain hares – our only native hare – are an important and valued species in the Scottish hills. This increased protection will help ensure healthy populations of mountain hares can be found and enjoyed in the mountains, while giving some recourse when there is a need to prevent damage being caused to saplings or sensitive habitats.”

The changes are part of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020 which will also see new licensing requirements for those breeding puppies, kittens or infant rabbits, as well as introducing ‘Lucy’s Law’ to end the third-party selling of dogs and cats in Scotland under the age of six months.

Natural environment minister, Ben Macpherson, said: “Protecting Scotland’s wild animals in their natural environment is a key priority for this Scottish government. Mountain hares are an iconic Scottish species and it is right that we protect them.

“Through the Animals and Wildlife Act 2020, we are taking action to safeguard the welfare of animals in Scotland and preserve our precious natural heritage for future generations to come.”