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Hares feared extinct on Dublin's North Bull Island
02 April 2015

Hares are believed to have become extinct on an important nature reserve less than five miles from the offices of Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Dublin Bay's North Bull Island was once synonymous with the Irish Hare but there are fears that the iconic creature may now be extinct there.

The North Bull Island Wildlife website, run by an ecologist with over 40 years experience recording wildlife, is reporting that there have been no hares spotted on the island since June 2014.

"The native Irish Hare was once abundant on the island but is now on the verge of extinction for the second time in recent decades," an article on outlines. "In 2014 only one animal was reported up to the end of May 2014, then two were observed in June. No hares have been recorded since June despite extensive searches."

The causes of the decline are believed to be disturbance from humans and dogs. Despite local bye-laws prohibiting unleashed dogs from being on the island, dogs continue to run free and disturb resident creatures.

The disappearance of the Irish Hare from an internationally recognised nature reserve should be a great embarrassment for our government and ought to be sounding alarm bells for an administration which continues to permit hare coursing, an activity which threatens local populations around Ireland.

Coursing is responsible for massive interference with the species (including disturbance of pregnant hares, nursing mothers and leverets) and can deplete vulnerable population pockets which cumulatively can lead to extinction.

Thousands of hares are cruelly netted from the wild each year for use as live bait in coursing. Every coursing season, hare injuries and deaths are documented - these occur when greyhounds catch, hit and maul the fleeing hares. The animals are also at risk of dying from stress-related capture myopathy while in captivity and during the days/weeks/months after coursing. Fears have also been expressed about the reproductive viability of hares which survive the ordeal of coursing and are released back to the wild.

The hares on Bull Island have declined despite the island having the most designations of any site in the Republic of Ireland. It is a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve, a National Nature Reserve and is part of the Natura 2000 Network. It is a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive and a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive.

TDs Paul Murphy and Tommy Broughan question Minister about extinction of Bull Island hares

Paul Murphy TD and Tommy Broughan TD have questioned Arts and Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys about the extinction of the Irish Hare on North Bull Island. In her reply, the Minister doesn't acknowledge that hares are extinct on the island or express sorrow at the fact that no hares have been spotted there since June 2014 despite extensive searches...

Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Questions 893 - Answered on 15th April, 2015

Paul Murphy, TD (Dublin South West, Anti Austerity Alliance)

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the extinction of Irish hares from North Bull Island in Dublin city; her further views on action to restore and preserve Irish hares on the island; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Question 894 - Answered on 15th April, 2015

Tommy Broughan, TD (Dublin North–East, Independent)

To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the measures to be taken to protect wildlife on North Bull Island, in view of reports that there have been no hares sighted there since June 2014; her plans to re-introduce hares to the island; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys

I propose to take Questions Nos 893 & 894 together.

The Irish Hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus) is found throughout the country. It is classified as a “protected species” under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012, as well as being listed in Annex V of the EU Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC).

Under Article 17 of the Directive, Member States are obliged to report to the European Commission on the status of listed habitats and species every six years. Each species is assessed according to its range across Ireland, the population, the quality of its habitat and its future prospects. The Irish Hare was given a favourable conservation status in the Report entitled “The Status of European Union Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland”, which was submitted to the Commission in 2013. A copy of the report is available on the website of my Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service at

The Bull Island is monitored regularly by officers of my Department, but, despite these efforts and those of local landowners, the hare population has remained at very low levels for the past 20 years. While it is a matter for the landowners on the island to consider if they wish to translocate hares there, such a proposal would require a licence from my Department under the Wildlife Acts. In that regard, it would be important that conditions on the island would be suitable for a reintroduction programme.

Videos: Ireland's cruel hare coursing


Express your support for a ban on coursing. Sign and share petitions

Stop Licensing Cruel Hare Coursing
Save Irish hares from cruel coursing
Ban horrific hare coursing cruelty in Ireland
Stop sponsoring hare coursing in Ireland

Urge Minister Heather Humphreys to show compassion for the persecuted Irish Hare and stop licensing cruel hare coursing.

Email "Stop licensing cruel hare coursing" to
Tel: (01) 631 3802 or (01) 631 3800
Leave a comment on Facebook -
Tweet to Heather Humphreys: @HHumphreysFG

(If you have time, please compose your own personal letter. Otherwise, feel free to send the short sample letter below. Be assertive, but polite, in all correspondence. Thank you.)

Dear Minister,

I am one of the majority who want hare coursing outlawed. I am writing to urge you to stop licensing this cruel bloodsport

In coursing, hares suffer at all stages - during the capture, during the time they are kept in captivity and during the coursing meetings where they run for their lives in front of greyhounds. Among the injuries recorded are broken legs, damaged toes and dislocated hips. Every season, hare injuries and deaths are documented.

I ask you to please act on the wishes of the majority, show compassion and stop licensing coursing.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,


Appeal to the Minister for Agriculture

Please appeal to the Minister for Agriculture to remove an exemption for hare coursing from the Animal Health and Welfare Act.

Simon Coveney, TD
Minister for Agriculture
Agriculture House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01-607 2884 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.

Urgently contact An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and ask him to back a ban on hare coursing.

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
Department of the Taoiseach,
Government Buildings,
Upper Merrion Street,
Dublin 2
Telephone: 01-6194020
Fax: 01-6764048

Contact all your local TDs now. Demand that they urgently push for a ban on hare coursing and all bloodsports. Tell them you are one of the majority who want coursing banned. Remind them that coursing is already illegal in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Urge them to respect the wishes of the majority of the electorate and back a ban.

Find out their contact details
Please also arrange a meeting with your TDs at their local clinics.

Videos: Drag coursing, the humane alternative to hare coursing

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