Wildlife advent calendar: Day 3: Mountain hare
A lot scarcer than its relative, the brown hare, the mountain hare is definitely one to try and spot during the winter months. Unlike the brown hare which was introduced to the UK in the iron age, the mountain hare is indigenous to the British Isles with bones dating back to over 110,000 years ago. Mountain hares also change their plumage from their summer brown colour to their beautiful white winter coat, so that they can remain camouflaged throughout the year.
Mountain hares in Britain are often found on heather moorlands, which are fire managed for grouse moors, feeding on the heather and grasses. They are native to the highlands of Scotland, but they have also been reintroduced to some Scottish islands (including Skye and Orkney) and also in the peak district. At one stage they were also introduced to Snowdonia but they soon died out. As their name suggests you are unlikely to find a free-roaming mountain hare below 500m.
Although the mountain hare is labeled as least concern (IUCN red list) there is still some concern that global warming will decrease the range of this species as they are only found above a particular altitude. The mountain hare is also thought to have declined by around 43% in Scotland since 1995.
Image taken from Flickr user John Johnston