Submitted by admin on April 22, 2009 - 21:35
The European hare (Lepus europaeus) was first liberated in 1851 in Canterbury to provide sport and also, perhaps, to improve the food supply of early settlers. Hares are now widely distributed throughout the North and South Islands, but are absent from the outlying islands. Native or cultivated grasslands from sea level up to about 6,000 ft are the favoured habitats, although hares are also found on open spaces both in native and in exotic forests. Hares travel greater distances than rabbits and thrive in long grass. Their numbers may have increased since the recent drastic reduction of rabbits. They have some value for sport, particularly for hunt clubs and organised hare drives. Skins and meat are exported to Europe, mainly from the South Island. Hares cause damage to saplings, alpine grasslands, orchards, and gardens, and may compete with sheep for grazing. Poisoning and night-shooting by rabbit boards are the most effective methods of control.