Imagine walking through the woods on a bright spring morning, the trees silent, except from the tweeting of birds. Then you get the strange feeling that you are being followed, stalked even. Then you catch glimpse of an orange body, and see the tell-tale tufts on the ears. You know what it is- but it a predator that has been extinct in the UK for 1300 years !
This could happen soon. The Lynx UK Trust is suggesting a scheme that is trying to get lynx re-introduced in to Scotland. If it is approved, they will bring four to six lynx onto each of three privately owned estates in Norfolk, Cumbria and Aberdeenshire that have loads of shelter and are rich in deer. And it won't be as dangerous as you think: unlike many big cats, lynx prefer to stay well away from humans.
A lynx is a medium sized member of the big cat family, and there are four subspecies called the Eurasian lynx, Canada lynx, Iberian lynx and Bobcat. They can weigh up to 40kg/70lb - much bigger than a pussy cat at 5kg, but much smaller than most of the big cats we usually think of, like lions and tigers. They have light grey and white spotted belly, with long ears. They have long legs with webbed paws and just like deer, their fur changes colour at different times of the year. You can find them in 46 countries, especially in Europe, where the largest species is, and where they hunt roe deer. They are the third largest predator in Europe after the brown bear and the wolf.
But is it right to re-introduce animals that died out before ? I think that it is right and will be successful. Some introductions are good - such as fallow deer, which came from France, and which we wouldn't think of getting rid of now. But there are also examples like the grey squirrels, which cause a lot of problems and drive out native red squirrels.
So what are the downsides ? One is that the lynx won't know what they are supposed to eat, and might go for sheep or game birds instead. And what if it affects some populations such as capercaillie ? Another is: is it fair to let roe deer be savagely killed by a predator they haven't encountered for hundreds of years ? I think roe deer die in many ways, especially on roads, so being a roe deer isn't that great anyway as it is.
We can make this happen ! Here's the survey page at the Lynx UK Trust. Let's get lynx back in Scotland !
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