Woodsman says that reintroducing wolves and lynxes to Britain would be a disaster

There has been a lot of talk over the past five years about rewilding species such as the wolf and lynx in the UK which became extinct on these islands many years ago because they were over hunted. One of these is the wildcat, the last one of which was shot by a landowner in 1835 as I recall in the south of England. The wildcat is all but extinct in the UK in 2023 and if it does exist it is in Scotland in very small numbers.

Ray Mears does not believe that the lynx or wolf can be reintroduced into Britain
Ray Mears does not believe that the lynx or wolf can be reintroduced into Britain. Image: MikeB

The wolf is well known. The lynx is a medium-sized wild cat. The well-known woodsman and survival expert, Ray Mears, has pooh-poohed the idea. He said that it would be a disaster. Any public support for rewilding schemes concerning these species would be squashed once and for all once the first domestic dog was killed and eaten by either one of these two species, he claimed in a talk at the Cheltenham Science Festival.

Ray Mears, likes the idea of rewilding but he does not see it as practical. He thinks that Britons can’t even coexist with large predators which already exist in the UK such as the hen harrier and golden eagle. People poison them. These two are the only two apex predators in the UK and a significant number of people don’t want them because they interfere with their game shooting businesses.

He doesn’t think that lynxes and wolves can coexist with humans in Britain where only 13% of the country is covered with woodland which isn’t enough to enable large predators to behave naturally without human-animal conflict.

He said:

“These animals only have to consume somebody’s dog and they then become the hounds of hell – and you end up with more hatred for the animal than before you started. I don’t think we should be discussing reintroducing lynx or wolf at this stage, because we still have two apex predators that we can’t live with – the hen harrier and the golden eagle. These are still poisoned.

Several species have been reintroduced into the wild in Britain successfully such as beavers, boars and pine martens but they don’t eat people’s pets, he says.

Mears tells us that reintroductions have caused a lot of problems in countries such as Sweden and the US despite extensive consultations with the public. The US is a wide-open place compared to the UK. There are areas of extensive unbroken wilderness.

Scotland is fairly devoid of people but Ray Mears is even sceptical about reintroducing wolves into the Scottish Highlands. The idea is that they would control the deer population. However, he says that the deer would learn to avoid wolves, whereas the sheep wouldn’t. They’d be attacked and eaten.

The counterargument comes from Dr. Rob Stoneman, director of Landscape Recovery at the Wildlife Trusts. He said that lynx have been reintroduced successfully in areas where there are quite high human populations such as the Harz mountains of Germany and it’s worked out okay. He can’t see why the same projects can’t be carried out in the UK.

Dr. Stoneman said:

“Apex predators have hugely positive effects on woodlands. In the UK many woods are known to be in poor condition. They are badly needed to help maintain balanced numbers of other animals so that woods can regenerate. Lynx are shy creatures that keep their distance from humans and they’ve been welcomed back across Europe. It’s time we did the same.”

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful

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