The European hare was introduced to Ireland in the late 1800s for the field sport of hare coursing. A substantial population was identified during 2005 in Mid-Ulster (a site with no records of introduction). We used nocturnal line transect surveys to investigate changes in the European hare’s range since 2005, and habitat selection models to look at mixed-scale habitat preferences and niche breadth and overlap.
The range of the European hare in Northern Ireland expanded was three times larger in 2012-13 than 2005, and was expanding at a rate of 0.73 km per year. We estimated the initial introduction of the species to the region have occurred around 1970. Both hare species are ecologically similar, with comparable niche breadths, and almost complete niche overlap. The European hare can be considered a signiﬁcant threat to the ecological security of the endemic Irish hare.
Caravaggi A, Montgomery WI, Reid N et al. (2015) Range expansion and comparative habitat use of insular, congeneric lagomorphs: invasive European hares Lepus europaeus and endemic Irish hares Lepus timidus hibernicus. Biological Invasions. 17(2): 687-698. doi: 10.1007/s10530-014-0759-1