David Ford MLA said: “The results of this research are worrying, especially given the fact that the hills around Belfast should be an ideal location for Irish hares to live in. If their numbers are low here, then there must be problems around the rest of the country.
“This decline in numbers is partly a consequence of environmental pressures but the Irish hare also faces threat from coursing, both legal and illegal.
“I would call on the Environment Minister Sammy Wilson to make sure that the Irish hare continues to be given protection this year under the amendment to the Game Preservation Bill which I pushed through the Assembly in 2002. The Minister also needs to give the Irish hare the highest protection under the revision of the Wildlife Order which is currently being considered by his Department.”