NFU Scotland says sheep farmers are right to be a little wary over the possibility of lynx being reintroduced to the Cheviot Hills.
Earlier this year, the Lynx UK Trust asked the public for their opinion on bringing back the deer-hunting lynx after a 1,300 year absence to help balance out deer overpopulation and its damaging effects on forestry and agricultural crops. Over 9,000 people responded, recording support of up to 91% in favour of reintroduction.
Among the suggested reintroduction sites are the Northumberland National Park, which includes the English part of the Cheviot Hills, and Cumbria, and the Trust are now advancing through the application process with a national stakeholder consultation to formally discuss the details of reintroduction, and what it may mean for UK ecology and industries including tourism, farming and conservation.
The consultation includes the release of a document detailing the process of the consultation, the logistics of reintroduction and detailed assessments of the various impacts the lynx would be likely to have on life in the UK.
The document claims lynx are no threat to people and are little to no threat for pets or livestock, however, they are very likely to provide benefits for various endangered species, deliver a hugely beneficial impact to forestry and crop farming through deer control and create substantial eco-tourism and job creation opportunities.
Stakeholders including landowners, farmers, gamekeepers and conservation groups have been invited to join the consultation, offer opinions and ask questions regarding the reintroduction plans.
However, Andrew Bauer, deputy director of policy for NFU Scotland commented: “Whilst the prospect of lynx reintroduction has left some breathless with excitement, there are good reasons why the farming community is more wary. In some parts of Europe the impact of lynx is moderate – very distressing and damaging for those who lose lambs but not a widespread problem. There are other parts of Europe, most notably Norway, where the impact is far greater – with official reports concluding that tens of thousands of lambs are being predated each year in Norway alone by species such as lynx and wolves.
“Farmers are quite right to question why and how lynx, absent from Scotland since medieval times, should be reintroduced. Alongside trumpeting the benefits, those who advocate lynx reintroduction should be up front about the potential impacts on Scotland’s hugely important sheep farming industry and the potentially very significant cost to the public purse.
“As a member of the National Species Reintroduction Forum, NFUS would be involved in the scrutiny of any application and would feed in the many views and concerns likely to be voiced by our membership. Should it be clear that the risk to farming is unacceptable, NFU Scotland would act accordingly.”