Conservationists are asking for walkers’ help in recording sightings of a rare Scottish mountain dweller.

The Game Conservancy Trust wants details of numbers of mountain hares spotted while our on the hills. Accurate data are needed to enable the Government to manage the hares’ environment and take future decisions.

Numbers for the species are unknown, hence the survey. To take part, you should record a four-figure grid reference (in other words, which 1km square the animals were seen in) of any sightings since March last year – that should tax most walkers’ memory – along with the name of any village or land feature.

Details should be posted to the trust and, as an incentive, one informant will win either a watercolour of a mountain hare by artist Ashley Boon or two bottles of ten-year-old Famous Grouse malt whisky.

Results need to be in before 3 August 2007 to qualify for the draw. The trust says that correct identification of the mountain hare is essential. It is smaller than the brown hare and has a blue-grey coat in summer, turning white in winter, unlike its bigger cousin which retains its brown coat throughout the year.

The mountain hare has a body length of around 50-60 cm, with a more rounded shape, and without a black upper surface on the tail. Mountain hares also have shorter ears and legs than the brown hare, although both types of hare have much longer ears and hind legs than rabbits which are sometimes confused with hares.

Rabbits are smaller, and do not have black tips to the ears.

At this stage, the survey is purely for mountain hare numbers in Scotland. The other main area where the animals are found is the Peak District of England.

Email your results to the trust or post them to: The Scottish Mountain Hare Survey,
The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge SP6 1EF.