The Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht is not aware of any expert reports which indicate a national decline in the population of hares, Minister Josepha Madigan told the Dáil.
She was replying to Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who sought her views on whether the Irish hare should be protected due to biodiversity concerns.
Minister Madigan said Ireland is required under the EU Habitats directive to make a detailed report every six years on the conservation status of all listed species, including the hare.
Ireland’s most recent report in 2013 stated that the hare is found throughout the country from coastal habitats to upland heath and bog.
None of the identified threats are considered likely to impact on its conservation status in the foreseeable future and the overall conservation status was assessed as favourable, she said.
Minister Madigan said her Department also recently commissioned a new assessment of the hare population in Ireland. Survey work has already begun and the final report is due later this year.
The data in these survey reports, particularly with regard to population trends, does not suggest an ecological basis for the cessation of hare coursing pending conclusion of the overall survey, she said.