A SCOTTISH animal protection charity has renewed calls for an end to the mass killing of mountain hares.
OneKind made the appeal to the Scottish Government on the last day of the open season.
The animals are protected by a closed season, which runs from tomorrow until July 31, but can be killed outside of this period.
They are often killed as part of large-scale culls to manage land for red grouse shooting and can also be shot freely for sport.
In September last year, OneKind presented its 11,000-strong petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in a bid to end the practice.
A further 8,000 people have also signed a petition from the charity asking VisitScotland to stop promoting recreational mountain hare killing.
OneKind Director Harry Huyton said: “Tomorrow, Scotland’s mountain hares will be given some respite as the open season comes to a close. The mass killing of these iconic animals – apparently to protect sporting interests – is unjustified, unregulated and unethical.
“We’re looking to the Scottish Government to take urgent action and end the killing before the open season starts again.”
The charity wants to see complete protection of mountain hare which would spell an end to culls and commercial hunting.
Last month, Mr Huyton appeared on BBC’s Countryfile where they camera crew filmed a mountain hare cull for the first time.
Speaking of the show, he said: “The mountain hare cull featured on BBC’s Countryfile made for difficult watching, but I’m grateful to the programme for shining a light on this practice and showing the public what really goes on, on Scotland’s grouse moors.
“I hope this has taken us another step forward to offering Scotland’s mountain hares the protection they so rightly deserve.”
The charity made a similar appeal at the start of open season last year.
A Scottish government spokesman said at the time: “We have been very clear that we will not tolerate large-scale culls of mountain hares, but we recognise that numbers need to be controlled in some specific circumstances.
“Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has already announced the Scottish government is setting up an independently-led group to examine the sustainability of grouse moor management, which includes mountain hare culling.
“We are also commissioning research into the costs and benefits of large shooting estates to our biodiversity and economy.”