Hare numbers leap in Switzerland

Hare numbers are on the increase in Switzerland Keystone

This Easter, there's more chance than ever of seeing a real Easter bunny bounce around Swiss gardens.

This content was published on March 29, 2002 - 08:40

Although the bunnies - known in Switzerland as Easter hares - will be everywhere in chocolate form on Sunday, the real thing is more likely than ever to put in an appearance.

Since 1998 the number of hares in Switzerland has slightly increased following a 25 per cent drop between 1992 and 1997.

The outsized rabbits, however, are picky about their habitat and are not evenly spread across the Swiss countryside. They show a particular penchant for warrens in cantons Ticino, Vaud, Valais and Graubünden.

Hare-raising findings

Between 1991 and 2000, hunters, environmentalists and biologists systematically monitored the fluffy creatures' numbers in 200 areas in 20 cantons. Their findings were pulled together by the Swiss Ornithological society, Sempach.

They found that with regard to the hare habitats, the population was not big enough to sustain itself. In 100 areas there were only three animals per square kilometre, whereas six are needed for the long-term survival of a group.

Despite these gloomy findings the report remained upbeat, saying that the absolute number of hares had increased.

Friendly farming methods

A handful of reasons for the increase have been mooted, including more environmentally friendly farming methods, recent weather conditions and a natural increase in hare fertility.

A decline in hunting may also have played a big part in the growth. In 1947, for example, a staggering 70,000 of the furry mammals were killed by hunters, but in 2000 the number killed dropped to just 2,584.

These days, hare hunting is illegal in 11 cantons. Nevertheless, 100 hares were killed last year in the cantons where it is permitted.

Given the growing numbers of the animals, one or two hares may well be making a seasonal appearance in a park or garden near you.

swissinfo with agencies

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