Living with Lynx in Scotland

Many generations have passed since the shy, beautiful, and charismatic lynx roamed the wild forests of Scotland. Today, the possibility of reintroducing this native predator is a tantalizing prospect for some but for others, represents an unwelcome imposition.

Until just a few years ago, the lynx or lugh, as it was known in Scottish Gaelic, was virtually unknown as a former native predator of Scotland.

Instead, beavers and wolves were the species dominating discussions about reintroductions. Nowadays though, it seems that you can barely open a Scottish newspaper, magazine or website without meeting the intense, feline stare of a lynx, as the prospect of their return is very publicly raised once again. But between the uncomplicated optimism of the advocates and the dire scenarios painted by the naysayers, what would it really be like to once again live alongside this enigmatic feline in the now human-dominated landscapes of modern Scotland?

We know from bone evidence that Eurasian lynx once roamed the length and breadth of Britain. These bones, coupled with cultural evidence from recent centuries tell us that the species survived in northern Britain until medieval times.

These faint traces of Britain’s lost cat point the finger of blame for the species’ extinction, not at natural climatic processes that occurred millennia before, but instead at the activities of humans.

Severe deforestation by humans, the resultant decline of woodland deer, and persecution by local peasant farmers whose woodland-grazed sheep and goats would have succumbed to the remnant lynx, are all likely to have led to the extinction of the species in Britain. Under these circumstances, there is an ethical argument for considering its return.

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