A major citizen science project will be launched in the Peak District and South Pennines this autumn to gather more information about the enigmatic snow hare, and how this species is being affected by a warming climate.
This area is the only place in England where this animal – whose fur turns white in the winter for camouflage – is still found in any number.
However, more information is needed to find out how this cold-loving species is responding to our increasingly mild and wet winters with less snow.
The Community Science project, run by Moors for the Future Partnership and funded by the Heritage Lottery, will rely on volunteers to recording their hare sightings.
Sarah Proctor, Project Manager said: “Involving local communities gives us the best chance of collecting large amounts of data about our only upland specialist mammal.
The aim of the project is to provide a wide range of opportunities for people to collect valuable information about how our uplands are changing, whilst also inspiring people to take an interest in moorlands and look at them a bit closer”.
Sarah added, “There are loads of ways to record your sightings of the snow hare, its coat colour and whether there is snow on the ground when you saw it - through our website, by picking up one of our postcards, or by using our new ‘MoorWILD’ smartphone app, which is free to download.”
Snow hares - also called mountain hares - are a UK Priority species, and are well suited to living on cold and exposed hilltops. As the UK’s most south-easterly population, English snow hares are likely to be the first to feel the effects of our warming climate.
Community Science started in 2013 initially focussing on moorland birds, butterflies and bees, but is now being expanded to include studies into mammals and the vital peat-forming Sphagnum moss.
The man behind this year’s hunt to find Britain’s national bird, David Lindo, has given his backing to the campaign and said: “As far as I am concerned, the only way to really get conservation messages out there is to encourage volunteers to participate in citizen science. Exactly what you guys will be doing. It is people like you that help to create the cornerstones of our increasing knowledge of the natural world.”
To find out how more about the project and how you can get involved go to: www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/community-science