Berlin / Hanover (TEH) – Good news before Easter: The hares on Germany’s fields and meadows have increased slightly. According to surveys by the German Hunting Association (DJV), around twelve long ears lived in 2019 on a square kilometer of rabbit habitat.
According to the DJV, brown hares are widespread in Germany, even in forest areas and urban habitats.
Twice a year, hunters spread out across Germany to count rabbits. In the wild animal monitoring of the DJV, 500 selected areas in the car at night determine how many animals get into the light of a headlight. An increase of 15 percent between spring and autumn indicates that 2019 was a good rabbit summer (2018: plus 18 percent). This is usually followed by losses in winter.
“With our figures, we can show that stocks have remained stable at a low level in the past 15 or 20 years,” said DJV spokesman Torsten Reinwald of the German Press Agency. The hunting associations of the individual federal states come to different numbers, but the trend is the same.
Overall, the rabbits live most densely in the Greater Northwest German Lowlands between Flensburg and Aachen. There was particularly high growth in 2019 in the southwestern German low mountain ranges. The population is the thinnest in northeastern Germany.
Agriculture has been working in particularly large fields there since the GDR era, the experts say. The rabbit lacked herbaceous field edges as a hiding place and food. Zoologist Julian Heiermann from the Naturschutzbund (NABU) in Berlin speaks of the “rabbit pharmacy”: “The rabbit needs a variety of herbs to make ends meet.”
The European hare’s fertility has become a symbol of Easter. From March, the females give birth to up to five young for the first time in the year. April weather is crucial for their survival in small hollows in the fields, the so-called Sassen. “If it is very wet, this contributes to the mortality of the young hares,” says Regina Gerecht, a specialist at the Bavarian Hunting Association.
Corona spring 2020 makes it difficult for hunters to count, the associations reported. But the young rabbits also face unexpected danger. Because walks are currently the only way to relax, there are more cases where supposedly abandoned young animals are taken away and given away. The Nabu Species Protection Center Leiferde (Lower Saxony) has already complained about this. “This is a problem of misunderstood love of animals,” says spokesman Florian Rolfing from the Lower Saxony State Hunting Association.
Agriculture is crucial for the survival of the brown hare. The hare doesn’t like monocultures from corn, rapeseed or wheat. He has to flee from frequently mown meadows. Hooking in front of ever-faster machines is becoming more difficult. The German Hunting Association demands an unbureaucratic remuneration for farmers if they systematically create flower strips with wild herbs.
The German Farmers Association sees the growing rabbit population as a sign that the industry is already on the right track. The farmers should “continue the path they have chosen by planting flower strips, wild bird islands, bee pastures, and blooming catch crops”, said Steffen Pingen, Head of the Environment and Rural Areas.