Why the UK May Be About to Reintroduce the Wild Lynx

Wild lynx haven’t roamed England and Scotlandáfor more than 1,300 years, but one conservation groups thinksánow might be the time to bring them back.

The Lynx UK Trust is advocatingáthis as a major rewilding project, and one of the most exciting ever attempted in the UKáandáhas launched a survey to gauge how initial reintroduction of the lynx will be received. The plan is to release a carefully controlled number of the catsáonto private estates in the Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Norfolk regions, thus returning the animal to hunt the English and Scottish landscapes once more.

But why bother? Well, currently the UK is lacking in predator animals that can naturally control herbivores like deer and rabbits. As such,áfarmers and groundskeepers must deal with their land being cleared by these unchecked populations. This can sometimes involve legal culls, or sometimes may lead to illegal practices like shooting and poisoning animals without authorization.

Conservationists also argue that this proliferation of deer in particular actually drives down wider biodiversity by reducing available food stocks and habitat. It’s estimated the deer population now exceeds one million, numbers that are amplifying the deer’s rather more destructive qualities:ádeer strip woodland as they graze, and they also eat the eggs of floor-nesting birds, potentially driving down their numbers, too.

The Eurasian lynx is a good candidate for a top predator animal because, while it could definitely impact deer numbers, it is unlikely to ever pose a problem to humans because the cat is a solitary animal that is known to steer clear of human settlements. It also breeds relatively slowly, meaning we couldáuse the lynx to get a handle on deer numbers long before the lynx population ever became an issue.á

The Lynx Trust’s scheme will need approval from Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage, but early reception from the general public appears to be largely positive. Indeed, even welfare groups who oversee management of the UK’s deer population have reportedly welcomedáthe idea for its sustainable and sympathetic approach to controlling deer numbers.

Dr. O’Donoghue, who is overseeing the project,átold the BBC:

We’re delighted by the overwhelmingly positive response. It will be done in a very controlled, scientific way and we would be sure that everyone’s concerns and voices would be taken into account.

There may be some resistance, though. A spokesperson for The National Farmers’ Unionáis quoted as 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.

This is slightly puzzling though. Attacks on livestock are rare in areas where the lynx has already been introduced, such as in Poland. It is true that some populations, like those fostered in Switzerlandáand Germany, have spread beyond their intended regions, but again there has been little recorded impact on farmers and their animals, and government subsidies could mitigate any isolated incidents if they were to arise.

In terms of success rates, it will at first be difficult to gauge how many lynxáwill be needed to properly control the deer population, and it is true that the success rate will depend on a variety of factors. Obviously, this reintroduction program would have to make financial sense, but the lynx were driven out of the UK by habitat destruction and hunting.áReplacing it could be the key to reigning in wild deer and also starting to restore a balance that has seen the prey to predator ratio dangerously out of kilter.

If the scheme is given the go ahead then between fouráand sixálynx fitted with special GPS collars could be introduced back into England and Scotland’s woodlands by the end of the year, which for most wildlife enthusiasts is an exciting prospect to say the least.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

99 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Sounds like a good idea but the UK has the same problem as the US. Farmers. They want to control every living thing and blame their problems on wildlife. I hope they go through with the release because it will be a natural way to control prey animals.

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Julianna D.
Juliana D2 years ago

Thanks

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Holly W.
Holly W2 years ago

Sounds like something that would be wonderful.

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Simon Tucker
Simon Tucker2 years ago

The NFU (No F*cking Use - as they are known to most farmers) are just a reactionary bunch of wildlife haters. If the NFU had their way there would be no indigenous wildlife left in the UK, no small farms - we would have the same profile of industrial agri-business you have in the US. They represent less than one fifth of the UK's farmers but because they are funded by the agri-businesses they have a much higher profile than they should. If the whole bunch of them were culled the benefit to British wildlife would be immense.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Would love to see this work.

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Janis K.
Janis K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Magdalena J.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thank you!

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Kamia C.
Kamia T2 years ago

I understand farmers being concerned, but if there are sufficient deer and other wild animals, such as badgers, beavers, etc. they Lynx would FAR prefer to hunt those than cattle, and the wider the diversity in any environment, the overall healthier it will become.

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Jane H.
Jane H2 years ago

Hopefully this time they will be valued for their place in the ecosystem.

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