Farmers’ fears if lynx reappear in Borders

The Lynx UK Trust say southern Scotland could be an area suitable for the reintroduction of lynx.
The Lynx UK Trust say southern Scotland could be an area suitable for the reintroduction of lynx.

Any moves to reintroduce lynx into a prime sheep-rearing area like the Borders would be a nightmare with catastrophic results.

That was the view this week of Rob Livesey, who runs 1,100 sheep on his farm near Melrose and is a current vice-president of the National Farmers Union Scotland and was its national livestock committee chairman for four years.

He was adding his comments to those already issued by the NFU in response to proposals by the Lynx UK Trust to release up to six Eurasian lynx onto three privately owned, unfenced estates, including Aberdeenshire and Northumberland.

The trust has launched a public consultation, after which it will lodge a formal application with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) for a license to release the animals which have been missing from Scottish forests since medieval times.

The Eurasian lynx is the largest lynx species, which preys on deer as well as rabbit and hare.

But Steve Piper, of the Lynx UK Trust, who says southern Scotland could be an area also suitable for the apex predators, believes the economic potential from increased tourism as a result could be substantial.

“We’re looking mostly at the area from Galloway through to Kielder, so they may touch on the Borders area a little,” he told us.

On fears from sheep farmers of the possible impact on livestock, he added: “Lynx are forest animals and rolling hills are pretty much the last place they want to be, this is why sheep predation is extremely low across their range; for the most part the two animals exist in very different habitats.”

Mr Piper added if there were large enough forestry plantations in the Borders, or corridor-like connections to patches of forestry, then there was potential for lynx being re-established in the southern Borders between Ettrick and Kielder Forests.

“And there is huge potential for eco-tourism money coming into rural economies; if sea eagles can make Mull £5m then lynx potential is considerable,” he added.

But NFU Scotland has accused the Lynx UK Trust of focussing on courting public and media attention.

Mr Livesey says lynx in a sheep-intensive area like the Borders would be a nightmare for farmers. “Sheep farmers in the Borders face enough predation by foxes and badgers, so to introduce lynx could have a catastrophic impact,” he said.

“The whole thing would be a nightmare for the Borders - the area which produces the highest quality sheep in the UK. This is a romantic idea but an ill-considered one.”