Brown Hares (Lepus europaeas)
Hares have declined in recent years but we are still lucky in Norfolk to be one of the areas in the country to still have them .Their decline is due to changes in agriculture ie, intensified farming, size of fields, lack of hedges and the pesticides and weed killers used.
No other British mammal is better able to survive in a totally open habitat, where the cold, windy or rainy weather is as much of a challenge to survival as eluding predators, than the Brown Hare.
March is one of the best times to see them courting before the lush spring growth obscures them. They can be seen leaping around a lot, chasing each other and even standing on their hind legs and boxing ….no they are not Mad (“Mad as a March Hare”) they are just full of the joys of Spring.
Male and female Hares are know as Jack and Jill and the boxing bouts can be either two Jacks fighting over one Jill or A Jill seeing off an over-insistent Jack!
Firstly you need to be able to distinguish them from their cousin the rabbit! Hares are much larger (about twice the size of a rabbit) with much longer black-tipped ears and longer-limbed and swifter than rabbits. The brown hare can run at 50kmph (30mph) and relies on speed to escape.
Also a main difference is that it breeds on the ground rather than in a burrow. The young are brought up in hollows in the ground called a “form”
The babies called “leverets” are born in their own form and there can be two or three in a litter. What is more, the Mother (Jill) gently carries the leveret in her mouth away from the “form” to feed it so no smell of suckling can be detected by predators to lead them there.
Unlike rabbits they do not live in large family groups. It is strictly herbivorous. It eats grasses and herbs during the summer months but changes to feeding on twigs, bark, and the buds of young trees in winter making it a pest to orchard farmers.