Bull Island's hare population all but extinct due to dogs

Departmental estimates put number of hares on island in Clontarf between six and 15


Disturbance by dogs is the main reason the hare population on Dublin’s Bull Island is almost extinct.

The Minister for Heritage, Heather Humphreys, said estimate put the number of hares on the island in Clontarf as low as six. Another study estimates there were between 10 and 15 hares. She said there were an estimated 15 to 20 in 1995.

Dublin North TD Clare Daly asked in a parliamentary question if the Minister was aware of reports the hare was extinct on the island and what action she proposed to take “in relation to this important part of our wildlife”.

Ms Humphreys said Bull Island was monitored regularly by officers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. But despite these efforts and those of local landowners, the hare population there had remained at low levels for the past 20 years.

In a written reply, the Minister said that “such low numbers are believed to be attributable to a number of potential pressures, particularly disturbance by dogs. I understand that the main landowner, Dublin City Council, is working proactively to raise awareness and address management issues.”

Translocate hares

If that was the case, she said, “it would be important that conditions on the island would be suitable for a reintroduction programme”.

Last week Finian McGrath raised the issue in the Dáil with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. The Dublin North Central TD asked if Mr Kenny was aware that “the Wildlife Act is being breached on the North Bull Island in Clontarf? No hares have been seen on the North Bull Island, which is a beautiful nature reserve, since June 2014.”

Mr McGrath said because no hares had been seen, it meant “this natural resource in Clontarf is being severely damaged”. He asked the Government to consider restocking the island.

“It is a beautiful island and nature reserve, and we want our hares back,” he said.