Fur flies over chief's call to bring back missing lynx
LYNX should once again prowl around the mountains of Scotland, according to the new chairman of an influential wildlife charity.
The animals were hunted to extinction here thousands of years ago, but Allan Bantick, who will become chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) later this year, thinks they should be brought back.
His view is a controversial one, not least because lynx are predators and farmers fear they would develop a taste for sheep.
Mr Bantick is already heavily involved in the project to reintroduce the beaver, which was given the green light by the Scottish Government earlier this year.
"I'm quite convinced that the beaver will be a success story," he said. "I suspect there is also a case for the lynx. If the beaver trial is a success then maybe the lynx will be next."
He added: "I personally would certainly support the return of the lynx."
He thinks bringing them back would benefit Scotland's forests. "There are very large populations of roe deer in our forests. In other countries where lynx have been introduced the population of roe deer has been reduced and stabilised so the forest can cope with them," he said.
And he believes as humans killed off lynx in Scotland, it is up to us to try to reintroduce them. "The lynx were part of our historical world," he said. "It was eliminated by the hand of man so we should consider whether it can brought back."
He emphasised this was his personal opinion rather than the stance of SWT, and said any move to reintroduce the lynx would require years of research and planning.
Mr Bantick said he hopes there is scope for reintroducing other animals that once roamed Scotland but admits bears and wolves could pose difficulties.
"The beaver is definitely do-able. The lynx may well be. What happens next who knows?
"There may be serious political reservations about bringing back predators such as the bear or the wolf.
"Personally I don't think you would know they were there, but the very first hillwalker that died, it would be blamed on them."
Jonathan Hall, head of rural policy at the National Farmers' Union, said he was "totally opposed" to the return of lynx.
"To reintroduce an apex predator such as the lynx could have a very detrimental impact on existing species that we are doing a lot to conserve."
He added that as sheep were likely to be killed, the reintroduction would "manifest itself as an economic blow to people who are already struggling to make an income".
Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, agreed.
"It's all very well introducing more and more predators, but if these lynx were to start to attack sheep and lambs would there be a way to remove them again?"
He said he did not think they would control roe deer.
"You would need hundreds of lynx to keep the roe deer population down. Scotland's just not big enough," he said.
David Hetherington, an Aberdeen University PhD student, concluded in a report three years ago that Scotland had enough of the right habitat and prey to home 450 lynx without damage to farmers' livelihoods.
He also argued the lynx would attract tourists, providing a boost to Scotland's economy.
Beavers coming home, but wolves? Probably not
BEAVERS will roam free in Scotland next year for the first time since they were hunted to extinction 400 years ago.
Amid concerns the rodents could gnaw down trees and damage waterways, the Scottish Government has given permission for a trial reintroduction in Knapdale Forest, Argyll. Up to four beaver families will be captured in Norway and set loose.
The howl of WOLVES could be heard in Scotland until the mid-18th century, when they were wiped out by hunters.
But even though wolves have returned to other parts of Europe, they are unlikely to be allowed back to the Highlands.
Such a move would spark huge concern among the farming community and the public – fearful for their own safety.
Similarly, the occasional aggressiveness of BROWN BEARS means their growls are unlikely ever to resound in the wild in Scotland again.
It is thought they were wiped out in Britain by the 10th century.
Brown bears have been reintroduced to the Pyrenees and still live in some parts of eastern Europe.
WILD BOAR are less controversial. The National Farmers Union said it could be open to the idea of a reintroduction, if a trial showed they did not have a damaging environmental, ecological or social impact.
The animal was hunted out of Scotland in the 17th century. Some argue its rooting could help clear unwanted undergrowth.
SEA EAGLES, shot to extinction in 1918, have been reintroduced in Scotland, with 13 chicks imported from Norway last month to boost their numbers.
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