Lynx could return to south west

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Moves are being made to reintroduce the Lynx to the south west - almost 1300 years after it disappeared from the area.

Earlier this month the Lynx UK Trust proposed three potential release sites in Scotland and England for trial reintroductions of lynx, and they’re now keen to find sites in and around Galloway Forest as well.

Lynx disappeared from UK forests 1300 years ago most likely as a result of fur hunting, which combined with deforestation to leave the species at just 700 individuals across Europe by the 1940s. Since then the population has expanded to around 10,000, with the species being reintroduced successfully into countries like Germany, France and Switzerland. Now the Lynx UK Trust believe that the UK is an ideal candidate for the next reintroduction effort.

“These are beautiful cats which will fit beautifully into the UK environment,” explains chief scientific specialist Dr Paul O’Donoghue, “they’re extremely shy animals which have never attacked a human anywhere they live, and everywhere they live their preferred prey is deer which we have a serious overpopulation issue with in the UK.”

“That overpopulation damages forest habitats that most of our wildlife rely on; reintroduction of a specialist deer predator will help control the population level and force changes in deer behaviour.

“The threat of predation will keep them moving across the entire forest, grazing more sustainably, rather than staying in one area and stripping it bare; and that benefits everything else in the ecosystem.”

Concerns raised by some sheep farmers at the plans have been met with assurances of a comprehensive and generous compensation program, and extensive research from Europe showing that lynx very rarely predate on sheep anywhere they live, preferring the hiding places of remote forestry to the open environment of farms or sheep moors.

Sites proposed so far are in Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Norfolk, and the Trust is also surveying several sites in Wales, but now they’re interested in exploring sites around Galloway Forest.

Dr O’Donoghue explains: “The forestry here is some of the most extensive in the UK, with very little human disturbance and good populations of deer, it represents an ideal place for trial reintroductions, and of course there’s an exciting long term potential to link together Galloway, Ettrick and Kielder forests with wildlife corridors, supporting a good population of lynx across the Scottish/English border.

“This is an amazing opportunity for our natural ecology and for rural communities to develop eco-tourism around lynx presence, and we’d love to hear from landowners of forestry in the area that might be interested in providing a release site.”

The Trust can be contacted at www.lynxuk.org