Reintroducing wolves and lynx to areas would help to control deer numbers, says the chairman of Natural England
Lynx and wolves could be reintroduced to England under plans backed by the head of Natural England to “rewild” large areas.
Tony Juniper said lynx was the more likely candidate to be brought back but the return of wolves to the Netherlands without problems had shown that it was possible in England. Lynx UK Trust plans to submit an application to Natural England before Christmas to release six big cats from Sweden in Kielder Forest, Northumberland.
In November 2018, Michael Gove, as environment secretary, rejected a similar application by the group after Natural England advised against it. Mr Juniper became chairman of the organisation last year and is more supportive of lynx than his predecessor.
In an interview with The Times, he said he wanted to build on the reintroduction of beavers in Devon and white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Wight. He was speaking on the eve of the launch today of a new partnership to deliver a government commitment to provide an additional 500,000 hectares (1,930 sq miles) of new wildlife habitat across England by 2042.
Mr Juniper said he wanted Natural England to study the feasibility of reintroducing lynx partly because it would prey on deer and help to control their numbers.
Thetford Forest straddling the Norfolk-Suffolk border has also been put forward as a potential release site for lynx.
On wolves, Mr Juniper said there were parallels with “European countries that look a bit like ours, densely populated with people, lots of agriculture and lots of urban areas and yet the wolf has slotted itself back in”.
He acknowledged that there would be concerns about releasing the predators but said they had caused “minimal impacts” in the Netherlands, where wolves were sighted in 2015 after crossing from Germany.
Phil Stocker, head of the National Sheep Association, said it opposed the plan because there were 1,000 sheep farmers within 30 miles of Kielder Forest and they feared for the welfare of their flocks.
Article by: Ben Webster, Environment Editor
Thursday November 05 2020, 12.01am GMT, The Times