Almost moulted out of its dense white winter coat, this “white hare” will soon be a “blue hare” once more.
Having so many names for the mountain hare is very confusing, but the animal changes appearance so drastically from season to season, it would be easy for an observer to conclude that they really were different species of hares.
As you might guess, this is our high ground hare, which is found atop Lammermuirs, Moorfoots and Pentlands alike.
Maybe the reason we don’t tend to refer to it as a mountain hare is because it seems a bit daft calling any of these hill ranges “mountains”.
Most folk I know just call it the blue hare. Compared to the brown hare of lowground farmland, the upland blue hare is much less lanky, shorter of leg and even ear.
Obviously this is a precaution against exposure to cold, as frost always attacks the extremeties first.
Another adaptation is large and fur-covered hind feet to act as snow shoes.
I have to say it is a species I greatly admire for its toughness.
Only in the most extreme winters with prolonged deep snow will it forsake the hills and head for lower ground.
Hares, of course, do not burrow underground like rabbits.
Instead they simply make a shallow depression in the ground called a “form”.
Here they will lie and take everything the weather throws at them – gales, hail, snow or endless rain.
No doubt our local blue hares are now issuing a collective sigh of relief as spring eases towards summer.
Of course, this happens later in the hills than on the low ground, but surely there is no going back now?
It is certainly too late for the “blue” hare to turn white again!
Gorge Hogg, Hogg Estate Services, Wildlife Management