PROPOSAL FOR LYNX REINTRODUCTION TO SCOTLAND
Article 22 of the European Habitats and Species Directive requires member states to consider the feasibility of returning species to their native range. There are various aspects to be considered in deciding if reintroduction is feasible, including the public appetite and the impact it may have on other economic, social and environmental activity. More details
A Code of Practice now exists in Scotland which an individual or organisation wishing the Government to consider the reintroduction of a former native species should follow.
The Code of Practice was drawn up by the National Species Reintroduction Forum of which Scottish Land & Estates is a member.
Proposals come forward from time to time seeking the reintroduction of species which once lived in Scotland. The latest proposal comes from the Lynx UK Trust and is for the reintroduction of the Eurasian Lynx.
Consultation Response arrangements
The Trust has put out a number of media releases on the subject and carried out a public survey on their website earlier this year in order to generate awareness and support for their objective.
With the aim of putting a license application for a trial reintroduction to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) next year, the Trust is currently consulting relevant stakeholders on their proposal. Scottish Land & Estates are included on their stakeholder list and we are asked to respond by 9 December 2016.
A short-term group of interested members will be formed to deal with this consultation. The group should be able to operate by email and telephone contact, but if a need to meet is identified, a one-off meeting prior to the consultation deadline can be organised.
- Outlined below is a summary of the proposal with a link to the full document.
- The proposed trial locations are Aberdeenshire, Kintyre and the Kielder Forest in the Borders
The Trust has set out a clear process and timeline in its consultation, it is consulting all relevant stakeholders including landowners and managers at an early stage and it is following the agreed protocol for proposing a reintroduction.
The proposal is likely to raise a number of concerns amongst many members of Scottish Land & Estates, while other members may want to support the proposal. Our response will aim to capture the breadth of views as well as the general mood of the membership. Crucially concerns will be raised with the Trust so that a full, open and frank debate can take place.
Application to SNH for the Trial Reintroduction of Lynx to Scotland
Summary of the Trust’s proposal
The project’s aim is to conduct a highly regulated scientific trial studying the effects of lynx on Scottish environments.
The intention is to observe, measure and analyse the effects of lynx on various aspects of Scotland’s social, economic and natural environments.
The ultimate goal of the project is to enable SNH and the Scottish Government to make a final decision as to the desirability of reintroducing lynx to the wild in Scotland on a permanent basis.
The Trust believes that lynx offer significant ecological benefits, represents the return of a missing keystone species that has evolved to shape the natural ecology of the landscape to the benefit of native flora and fauna.
The Trust has found monetary benefits to be high, e.g. in the region of £35 million to the Scottish economy if the Kielder Forest site is chosen. This comes mainly through ecotourism and to a lesser extent through savings in deer and fox control.
The Trust believes that adverse impacts are minimal, with attacks on humans very rare and impacts on livestock minimal.
The Trust acknowledges that lynx will sometimes take sheep. It proposes to set aside a sum of money for the duration of the trial to compensate farmers for loss of livestock. It is not clear what would happen beyond the trial period in terms of compensation.
The lynx is no larger than a medium sized dog (18-40kg), is the largest felid in Europe and has typical densities of 1-3 adults/100km (this an increase to 5/100km in optimal conditions).
According to a previous study (Hetherington, D, et al, 2008), the Southern Uplands are likely to be limited to a population of around 50 lynx, while the Highlands may be able to sustain around 400.
The most favourable habitat for lynx consists of large forests that support stables populations of smaller deer species, such as roe. Red deer juveniles are taken by lynx, but adult reds are a riskier proposition and less likely to be tackled.
The impact on other wildlife of a reintroduction is likely to be complex, however lynx are known to predate on foxes, which may benefit game bird populations. Raptors and other scavengers can also do well in the presence of lynx since they leave carcasses. Wildcat and pine marten appear to be able to inhabit the same space as lynx without detriment.
Lynx are ambush predators operating under forest cover. They do not usually chase down prey on open hillside or moor.
The Trust make a moral, as well as a legal, argument for reintroduction, i.e. that lynx are no longer in Scotland because of habitat loss and hunting. With reafforestation through the last century and legal protection from hunters, the conditions they argue are now right for a reintroduction and humans should therefore right a previous wrong.
The case for three possible release sites is made in the proposal. These are Kielder Forest, Kintyre and Aberdeenshire.
The project offers an exit strategy should the trial need to cease or come to an end without permission for an official reintroduction. This involves considering relocation options or ultimately euthanasia if this is not possible.