North farmers fear Eurasian Lynx effect
Jan 4 2009 by Coreena Ford, Sunday Sun
FARMERS are fearful of a beastly plan to reintroduce the Eurasian Lynx to the North.
The big cat last stalked the UK in medieval times but it still prowls forests and mountain ranges in Europe and Siberia, where it tucks into rabbits, rodents and deer. Big cats have been spotted on the loose all over the region for years . . . but Oxford conservationist Professor David Macdonald says the lynx could make an official comeback in Britain.
And he says the forests in the North and Scotland in particular would make a perfect home for around 450 of the carnivores.
Professor Macdonald makes the suggestion in his report the State of Britain’s Mammals — co-written by his Wildlife Conservation Research Unit colleague, Dr Dawn Burnham — in which he admits some sheep could be killed by the beasts.
Until recently, the big cat was thought to have disappeared from our landscape around 4000 years ago, but new research shows it survived until around 80 to 400AD and died out as a result of persecution by humans.
Of the UK’s large extinct carnivores — the lynx, bear and wolf — the professor says the lynx would be the easiest for humans to live alongside, and it could control the expanding deer population.
The report states: “The recently identified human involvement in its demise strengthens the case for reintroducing lynx in Britain.
“Lynx would most likely hunt roe, sika and juvenile red deer, supplementing their diet with hares and foxes.”
“There is enough food, there are all these roe deer that people are having to control and the lynx could help out. Will they damage anybody’s living? Not really. A few sheep would get killed, but Alps experience is that it is manageable.
“As far as I’m aware, there is no recorded case of lynx being any danger to people.”
A spokeswoman for North East National Farmer’s Union was surprised and shocked by the plan.
She said: “I haven’t seen the full report and so can’t comment on the detail of what’s being proposed, however farmers would clearly be very concerned at the prospect of any threat to the welfare of their livestock and livelihoods.
“It’s particularly concerning if you consider the practicalities of remote upland areas where flocks of sheep range freely over large areas of land.”
The professor’s report was commissioned by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, a charity which is already part-funding a trial project to reintroduce Eurasian beavers — hunted to extinction in the UK in the 16th Century — to Scotland this spring.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org