Is there woolly thinking in evidence over wild lynx scheme? - Andrew Arbuckle

You do not get much in the way of correspondence in this job. Most of what does come through the letterbox or its modern-day equivalent, the iPad, casts doubts on your views. Some even question your parentage.

Wild lynx could be introduced in Scotland
Wild lynx could be introduced in Scotland

However, this past week there popped into my inbox a letter from a sheep.

Yes, a sheep – one of these woolly four-legged animals that roam the hills and at the end of its life provides a tasty leg of lamb.

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You may be doubting the existence of this communication but there is evidence of sheep talking, for example Baa Baa Black sheep, who according to the nursery rhyme told his master he had three bags of wool, but there may be political sensitivities in mentioning that nowadays.

It was quite a serious letter and it claimed to come from an organisation unknown to me – the Sheep Protection Society.

Best to quote direct from the sheepy letter.

“You will have noticed there is yet another plan to introduce lynx to Scotland,” it starts.

“You humans will be aware that there is nothing a wild lynx likes better than a tasty mouthful of lamb or even a stringy chunk of mutton for its breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“If it goes ahead, we sheep could be contently munching grass when one of these imported hooligans starts to tear us limb from limb. My members are baaing in discontent at the mere thought of this. To coin a phrase, we sheep would seem to be the sacrificial lambs in this project. Especially as, at long last, the Scottish Government is doing something to curb attacks on our kith and ovine kin by uncontrolled dogs and unmentionable owners.”

The letter goes on to highlight the other species that view sheep as a tasty bite. This list includes ticks as those who want to keep their grouse moors clear of the little blood-sucking biting bugs use a sacrificial flock of sheep as “tick mops". More recently white-tailed eagles have been brought into the country to swoop down on unsuspecting sheep and these big birds seem to be thriving on a diet of quality Scotch Lamb

I decided to check out the rewilding plan and found out that it is only a trial to see how the occasionally deadly lynx will fare in bonnie Scotland but the letter writing sheep had beaten me to it.

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“Don’t be kidded by this ‘only a trial’ nonsense,” he, or probably she, wrote. “You can bet some of the lynx will be encouraged to escape. It happened with beavers and now these big rodents are building dams and clogging up rivers all over the country.”

Having read the missive so far, I recalled a visit to Scotland only a couple of years ago by a group of Norwegian farmers. They knew at first hand the damage lynx had done to their flocks of sheep and their descriptions of carcasses being torn limb from limb was not pretty.

The Norwegian sheep farmers also had to battle other predators such as wolverine and bears and many had just given up shepherding faced with these adverse odds. A figure of 20,000 sheep being killed annually by these predators was given which makes life a tad difficult for those wanting to be a Norwegian shepherd.

I thought this latest trial aimed at bringing lynx to Scotland would flounder as other earlier plans have done. But I am not too sure this time around as there is some serious money behind this proposal thanks to two of Scotland’s largest landowners, billionaire Danes Anders Povlsen and Lisbet Rausing, chipping into the project kitty.

Those behind the project claim they want to see how the public react to the arrival of lynx in Scotland. I don’t think they actually mean releasing a bus load of tourists in the lynx enclosure to see what happens although that might be fun, according to my sheepy letter writer.

The final word on the project will come from the Scottish Government. Fergus the Furious aka Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing has been supportive of sheep farmers on the rewilding issue.

However, I suppose it is only a matter of time before some scientist cobbles together the DNA of a prehistoric saber-toothed tiger and claims it should be rewilded in Scotland. That will not put the cat among the pigeons, but it would put the big cat among the sheep.​​​​​​

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