Lynx could be reintroduced to Kielder Forest

A bid to carry out a trial reintroduction of six Eurasian lynx in Kielder Forest has been submitted by the Lynx UK Trust.

Monday, 17th July 2017, 3:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 7:45 am
A Eurasian lynx. Picture by Erwin van Maanen

The Trust has lodged an application for a five-year trial with Natural England, which will make the decision.

In April 2015, the trust, a team of international wildlife and conservation experts, asked the general public for their opinion on bringing back the deer-hunting lynx after a 1,300-year absence to help balance out deer over-population and its damaging effects on forestry and agricultural crops. A national stakeholder consultation was also launched, with Northumberland listed as one of five trial sites.

The project’s chief scientific advisor, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to see it all come together after an intense couple of years. Tens of thousands of man hours of work by a huge team of people have gone into consultations to shape this final application, which marks a significant milestone in the history of UK conservation – potentially the first return of an extinct predator, which could prove to be a really keystone species for our ecosystem.”

Some are enthusiastic about the proposed reintroduction but others, including many in the farming community, are not, with the NFU branding the idea ‘expensive with a high risk of failure’.

National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker, said: “NSA has been strongly opposed to what Lynx UK Trust is calling a pilot release since its inception, with serious concerns around the way the organisation conducted its consultation process to questions around whether current law would even allow such a release to take place.

“We stand to lose the beauty of an area like Kielder if farming, grazing and human activity cannot continue as it has done for centuries in this area.”

But a Lynx UK Trust spokesman said: “Lynx have a shy and secretive nature that makes them a perfect reintroduction candidate.”

“No attacks on humans have ever been recorded by a healthy, wild Eurasian lynx anywhere in the world. They have a very low impact on livestock, with lynx in Europe killing, on average, less than one sheep every two years.”

There are now more than 10,000 of the Eurasian lynx and successful reintroductions have been staged in countries including Germany, France and Switzerland.

While any releases would take place in England, the lynx may cross the border into Scotland and, as such, Scottish Natural Heritage is also remaining fully informed of all details of the application.