Wild Lynx to Return to Britain after 1,300 YearsKeith
Wild Lynx to return to Britain after 1300 years?
In one of the most ambitious ‘rewilding’ projects ever to take place in the UK, the large deer-eating felines could be introduced to three unfenced estates later this year.
Known as the Keeper of Secrets, the elusive forest-dwelling creature has been extinct in Britain for over 1,300 years.
But now the wild lynx could roam the woods of England and Scotland once again, as part of the most ambitious “rewilding” project ever attempted in the UK.
If the Lynx UK Trust’s scheme is approved, the large cats, which prey on deer as well as rabbit and hare, will be released onto three privately owned, unfenced estates in Norfolk, Cumbria and Aberdeenshire.
“The lynx is one of the most enigmatic, beautiful cats on the planet,” Dr Paul O’Donoghue, a scientific adviser to the trust said. “The British countryside is dying and lynx will bring it back to life.”
The Eurasian lynx is the largest lynx species, with powerful, long legs, with large webbed and furred paws. Due to its solitary and secretive nature, lynx does not present a threat to humans.
The trust has launched a public consultation to determine public reaction to the plan, after which it will lodge a formal application with Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the government agencies that license such releases.
If the plan is given the green light, four to six Eurasian lynx wearing GPS tracking collars would be released later this year at each of the sites, all of which are rich in deer and tree cover.
One of the chosen sites is near Norfolk’s Thetford Forest, one of England’s largest and wildest woodlands and the other is in Ennerdale, a remote Lake District valley.
Lynx could help control Britain’s population of more than one million wild deer, which lack natural predators. Deer damage woodland by overgrazing and eat the eggs of birds that nest on the ground or in low bushes.
Peter Watson of the Deer Initiative which campaigns for the controlling deer in a sustainable way, welcomed the experimental reintroduction of lynx, saying that introducing lynx could help solve this problem.
Tony Marmont, a businessman who owns Grumack Forest, near Huntly in Aberdeenshire, told the Sunday Times that lynx will have an “extremely beneficial effect” on forest ecosystems. He added that lynx would serve as “ambassadors for wider conservation projects”.
However, not everyone is as enthusiastic, as the economic impact of reintroducing large predators remains controversial.
Previous reintroduction plans have been opposed and sometimes blocked by farmers arguing that creatures such as lynx and birds of prey attack livestock and gamebirds.
The reintroduction of lynx may raise fears of attacks on sheep, although these are rare in areas such as Romania and Poland, where lynx live naturally and a subsidy programme would be set up for farmers.
The National Farmers’ Union is sceptical, with a spokesman for the organisation saying: “We would be concerned about the reintroduction due to its high cost and failure risk. We believe budgets are better focused on developing existing biodiversity.”
In Germany, 14 lynx were reintroduced to a site in the Harz mountains in 2000 and have since bred and colonised other areas. Another reintroduction, in Switzerland in the 1990s, has also seen animals breed and spread.
Ron Macdonald, SNH’s policy director, said: “There are pluses and minuses to reintroducing any species. Lynx could help reduce deer numbers in Scottish woodlands but some land-use organisations have concerns about the impact of a reintroduction on livestock.”