Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lynx in Kielder Forest? Big cats could soon roam Northumberland

  • By Tony Henderson

The Lynx UK trust is looking at Kielder Forest as a reintroduction site in a move to curb Britain's growing deer population

A Lynx
A Lynx
Wildlife experts say the reintroduction of wild lynx in Kielder Forest could curb a growing deer population. The Lynx UK Trust is surveying potentially suitable sites for the release of the labrador-sized cat, which was once a native animal in Britain.

Lynx disappeared from UK forests around 1,300 years ago most likely as a result of fur hunting, which combined with deforestation to leave the species at just 700 individuals across Europe by the 1940s. Since then the population has expanded to around 10,000, with the species being reintroduced successfully into countries like Germany, France and Switzerland.

Now, the Lynx UK Trust believe that the UK is an ideal candidate for the next reintroduction effort - with Kielder Forest one of the suggested locations. And Northumberland Wildlife Trust conservation officer Kevin O’Hara, who visited a lynx reintroduction scheme in Bavaria in Germany, has backed a possible move.

He said: “The reintroduction of species will always be controversial but lynx are not a bad idea considering Britain’s burgeoning deer population, with could do with some control.
John Busfield Kielder
“Lynx are a lone, secretive creature which steers well clear of people and there is a lot of space at Kielder, so there may be something in reintroducing a top level predator.” Focused on hunting deer species and smaller prey such as rabbit and hare, the lynx is extremely elusive.

Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific specialist at the Lynx UK Trust, said: “These are beautiful cats which will fit beautifully into the UK environment. “They’re extremely shy animals which have never attacked a human anywhere they live, and everywhere they live their preferred prey is deer which we have a serious overpopulation issue with in the UK. “That overpopulation damages forest habitats that most of our wildlife rely on. Reintroduction of a specialist deer predator will help control the population level and force changes in deer behaviour. The threat of predation will keep them moving across the entire forest, grazing more sustain ably, rather than staying in one area and stripping it bare; and that benefits everything else in the ecosystem.”
Michael Marsh (@MJ_Marsh) tweeted; "Plessey Woods and Kielder favourite pastimes" photo taken by Owen Humphreys
Michael Marsh (@MJ_Marsh) tweeted; "Plessey Woods and Kielder favourite pastimes" photo taken by Owen Humphreys
Concerns raised by some sheep farmers at the plans have been met with assurances of a comprehensive and generous compensation programme. But the trust says that research from Europe shows that lynx very rarely prey on sheep, preferring the hiding places of remote forestry to the open environment of farms or sheep moors.

Dr O’Donoghue added: “The forestry in Kielder is some of the most extensive in the UK, with very little human disturbance and good populations of deer. “It represents an ideal place for trial reintroductions, and of course there’s an exciting long term potential to link together Galloway, Ettrick and Kielder forests with wildlife corridors, supporting a good population of lynx across the Scottish-English border. “This is an amazing opportunity for our natural ecology and for rural communities to develop eco-tourism around lynx presence, and we’d love to hear from landowners of forestry in the area that might be interested in providing a release site.”

A Forestry Commission spokesman said: “ We have not had any formal contact on this issue but we would be interested in seeing any proposals and what research had been done. “We would then take a view.” Reports of alleged “big cat” sightings in the North East over the last 10 years have included claims that some are lynx which may have been escapees from private collections or pets which have been freed.

The Lynx UK Trust is made up of a group of expert feline conservationists with specialisations in areas such as wildlife reintroductions, field research, ecology, biology and genetics, who are working to return a sustainable population to the UK over the next decade.

The Trust can be contacted at


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