Management and control of invasive species: contrasting attitudes of environmental stakeholders and the wider rural community

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Management of wildlife is often a contentious issue in which stakeholders are increasingly influential. The European hare (Lepus europaeus) is a non-native invasive species, now established in Northern Ireland. The European hare impacts the endemic Irish hare (L. timidus hibernicus), a priority species of conservation concern, via competition and hybridisation to the extent that control of European hares is a priority. We conducted a questionnaire survey among members of Countryside Alliance Ireland (CAI)—an organisation that promotes rural interests, including field sports—and non-members, to ascertain the contrasting attitudes to the lethal control of European hares in Northern Ireland; a total of 342 (20%) questionnaires were returned. We hypothesised that: (i) CAI members would exhibit greater support for intervention than non-members; and (ii) respondents in the core invasive range will differ in their outlook when compared to respondents from other zones. CAI members were more likely to be aware of the presence of the non-native species and to support lethal management. Both groups considered the threat posed to biodiversity by the European hare to be important. We conclude that members of rural interest groups may be important advocates of intervention, whilst non-members of field sports organisations may be more reluctant to support any proposed management plan involving lethal control. Active engagement to develop a mutual understanding, prior to developing management options, is crucial in ensuring long-term success.

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Caravaggi A, Montgomery WI, Reid N (2017) Management and control of invasive brown hares (Lepus europaeus): contrasting attitudes of selected environmental stakeholders and the wider rural community. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy: Biology & Environment. doi: 10.3318/bioe.2017.08

Data used in this study are available here.