Brown hares have been living at Rosemoor for several years and they have making some unusual daytime appearances in different locations around the garden over the past few weeks.
Breakfast in the Mediterranean garden
The number of brown hares in the UK has fallen by more than 80% during the past 100 years and their decline in the south west of England is particularly marked. Hares do not hibernate and cannot store much body fat, and so they require a constant food supply throughout the year. The wide variety of grasses, herbaceous plants, trees and fruits maturing in succession at Rosemoor reflects the biodiverse landscapes that hares will have thrived in prior to more intensive agricultural practices.
Enjoying the snow pear (Pyrus nivalis) windfall
Unfortunately, lucky though we are to have the hares in the garden, they can be quite destructive. Damage is often sporadic but can be severe: gnawing bark from trees and shrubs and eating the foliage of many herbaceous plants almost down to the ground (hares generally eat ½-1Ib of green vegetation each day). Individual fences are therefore constructed to protect most of the young shrubs and trees from mammalian damage (including that of deer, rabbits, badgers and squirrels).
At least extensive digging and burrowing is not a problem, as hares live above ground in ‘forms’. They scrape out a shallow depression just big enough to fit their body, often against a hedge or in short grass. Hares tend to rest and sleep in their form during the day and the best time to see them is in the early morning and at dusk, when they come out to feed.
Hares are best known for their remarkable running speeds (reaching up to 35mph), but they do tend to ‘sit tight’ to the ground when approached by a potential predator. This probably accounts for several memorable close encounters with a young hare in the Mediterranean garden and bicentenary arboretum over the past week.
The winter sculpture exhibition is also being created around the garden at present and this hare thought he had found some company in Lady Anne’s arboretum.