The Irish Hare species are abundant throughout Ireland, particularly within mountainous regions of the island such as the Wicklow Mountains. It is thought that there are at least 16 types of subspecies of the Irish Hare on the island that are endemic.
Irish Hares don’t burrow and don’t use dens as a shelter – however they do make shallow indentations in already well-sheltered areas of their habitat such as heather, high-grass, hedgerows and shrub areas. These provide excellent shelter against predators and bad weather i.e. storms and strong winds.
The diet of this species greatly varies depending on both where their habitat is located and what season it is – basically, resource dependent! Their diet mostly consists of grasses, heather and herbaceous plants.
It has been confirmed that this species breed almost every month of the year, regardless of harsh winter conditions – reinforcing the phrase “doing it like rabbits!”. It is thought that the peak breeding time during the year is during the spring and summer months. The female is pregnant for 50 days and usually gives birth to between 1-4 offspring each time. These offspring aren’t born underground, like rabbits would be, as Hares don’t burrow down into the ground, for this reason they have all their fur and can see when they are born. Therefore they are easy targets for predators like Red Foxes which share the same ecosystems as Irish Hares.
Juveniles stay close to the mother for their first few days to weeks and then leave on their own travels after that. Females of this species are larger than the males and dominate them throughout the year. For this reason, it is common to observe the females striking the males during the breeding season ‘boxing’ them to breed with them.
This species are protected under the Game Preservation Act 1930 in Ireland and since have been protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, Appendix III of the Berne Convention and the EU Habitats Directive 1992. Although it is heavily protected, it is classed as a game/quarry species and for this reason it is allowed to be hunted if the hunter has a license to do so during the ‘open’ season.
This species are not thought to be of conservation concern at present due to their high numbers on the island and their distribution across the country.