Lynx effect: Reintroducing extinct predator to Scotland may have benefits but are we ready for big cats roaming free? – Scotsman comment

Given many people would be nervous on encountering an angry swan, the idea of returning lynx to the Scottish countryside may feel like a step too far, even if attacks on humans are virtually unknown.

An adult female European Lynx in a birch forest in Bardu, Norway (Picture: Peter Cairns/scotlandbigpicture.com/PA Wire)
An adult female European Lynx in a birch forest in Bardu, Norway (Picture: Peter Cairns/scotlandbigpicture.com/PA Wire)

Once native to Britain, they became extinct about 1,300 years ago so this country has managed without them for a considerable time.

But now three environmental charities are looking into whether reintroducing this big cat could be done with sufficient public support. It is believed there is enough suitable habitat in the Highlands to support a population of 400.

There would be a number of benefits. Without any predators, deer numbers can soar to unsustainable levels and environmentalists and animal rights activists agree they need to be culled for their own sake. Failing to do so would see herds of starving animals roaming the countryside, desperate for food. As Steve Micklewright of Trees for Life noted, lynx would provide a “free and efficient deer-management service”.

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And the cats may well have a similar impact as the wolves reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the US, which resulted in a surprising number of welcome environmental changes that demonstrated the importance of apex predators to a healthy ecosystem.

However, alongside worries about human safety, farmers will be concerned about the potential threat to livestock like lambs.

Attitudes to the reintroduction of lost species are changing amid growing concern about the alarming rate of extinction of animals and plants, but we wait with interest to see if Scotland is ready to bring back the lynx. If it ever gets to the stage where we are, The Scotsman would favour a cautious approach.

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