Eurasian Lynx Reintroduction in the UK

Eurasian lynx, European brown bear and grey wolf all roamed the British Isles less than 1000 years ago. Due to a combination of predominantly anthropogenic factors, these large carnivores are now extinct in the UK; the last grey wolf was reported to have been killed in Scotland in 1743.

Recently, spurred by the success of other reintroductions across the world, talk of reintroducing native predators in the UK has gathered momentum. These large carnivores can help to rebalance the ecosystem, helping to control prey species such as deer in Scotland, which are currently culled at great cost. In Yellowstone national park, USA, the wolf reintroduction has been credited with an increase in biodiversity due its predation of elk, which can damage young trees. Allowing the trees to mature provides a better ecosystem for many species and it is hoped that predator reintroduction in the UK would deliver a similar effect.

grey wolf. (Sas, R. 2012)

grey wolf. (Sas, R. 2012)

Whereas the idea of wolves and bears in their back gardens back gardens garner a largely negative and fearful response from concerned residents, the lynx reintroduction proposal has been met with fewer objections. A solitary ambush predator, the Eurasian lynx is an elusive, forest dwelling animal and perhaps favourably has never been reported attacking humans. Livestock predation is also a minor issue due to the low initial number of lynx, which also tend to favour wild prey.

Eurasian lynx. (Sas, R. 2013)

Eurasian lynx. (Sas, R. 2013)

Reintroduction of these apex predators is under serious discussion, with the remote west coast of Scotland being a potential site for a trial reintroduction of Eurasian lynx. Supporters for the ‘rewilding’ of Britain believe that the restoration of native woodland habitat would be essential for the survival of lynx. As well as controlling the deer, its introduction would also provide revenue to the area through tourism, but opposition to the proposal are worried about potential dangers to ground dwelling birds such as grouse.

High hopes are held for this reintroduction, some advocates believe lynx will be roaming western Scotland by 2025. The acceptance of lynx will also perhaps soften the resistance to wolf reintroduction in the future.

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Ben Hutchings

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