After the countries biggest ever wolf cull, now Sweden is going to allow hundreds of Lynx to be hunted

Licenses to kill 201 lynx have been given, just weeks after a wolf cull where dozens of wolves were killed. In the case of the wolves, despite 300 being declared the minimum by scientists, the government has set the minimum at 200 – thought to be an effort to appease the hunting lobby.

Lynx living wild in Sweden – if hunts of this size continue, this site may become a thing of the past
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Return of the bear wolf and lynx to France and western Europe

The recovery of wolves bears and lynx over the last several generations in western Europe has been nothing short of astounding.

In the 1960s the population of the iberian wolf did not number more than a few hundred, yet now there are 2500. Similarly, bears got very low but now more than 300 roam – though this still has some way to go. The Iberian lynx was not heavily hunted, yet was still almost wiped out due to human introduced diseases wiping out most of the rabbits in Spain.

France destroyed its wolf population completely, though they are back, having crossed from Italy about 20-30 years ago. Bears were similarly almost wiped out, except a tiny relict population in the Pyrenes. Unfortunately, this population has not done well and is essentially only there because of bear translocations from further east. Similarly, Lynx were eradicated by 1900 though this has been reversed by reintroduction projects. There are a couple of zones where lynx are found (a reintroduction project in Switzerland returned them to part of france), However, there is not going to be more than 130 lynx in the whole country and the population does not seem to be growing.

Italy retained a wolf population, though in the 1970s there was only 70-100 left. Nowadays, 1000-2000 wolves roam the country, and it is roaming members of this population that seeded the population in France. 80-90 bears remain in Italy (the Marsican bear), and while this is a more healthy population than that in France, it is still not enough to be secure. Lynx were eradicated but have been reintroduced, though they are not thought to have established a population that would be secure longterm without continued translocations.

Scandinavia could in some ways be thought of as a strong-point for all three animals in western-Europe, though there are still views that are not helpful. The encouraging thing here, is that the wolf is able to return from Russia. There are no more than 500 wolves in this area, and Norway has a relatively strange view of the wolf, with human hunting elk very popular, wolves are seen as a nuisance and kept at a minimum. Norway has a similar view of the bear, with them being far more common in Sweden. Lynx are widespread in this part of the world.

Why should we champion the return of these animals? They have the capacity to rebalance environments, as well as allowing forests to operate properly – in the UK, as we are missing these predators, replanting forests are often hindered by deer grazing them to much. There are other reasons though. These animals can be a big tourist draw, allowing people to make a good income, often in places where there is little other economic potential. In the UK, return of wolves and lynx would save hundreds of human lives each year by reducing deer collisions on our roads.

Will their recovery continue? I hope so, though it seems to very much be an area where progress is two steps forwards and one step back.

Should the lynx return to the wild in the UK?

I am always interested when one of the biggest newspapers in the country, echo a sentiment that I have been talking about in this blog. Do not worry, I have no thoughts of grandeur – there news has not been prompted by this blog. However, it is highly encouraging when someone else is saying the same thing.

This blog is devoted to encouraging the protection and rejuvenation of wild ecosystems – through helping recognize the benefits and (obviously still a work in progress) hopefully creating a way to advertise you wilderness and have people visit (while you offer some service, from access to your land, to food or accommodation (tent or other)) thereby making the wildlife that people share their land with a financial benefit to the rest of the business.

However, one of the big issue that ecosystems have throughout the world, is holes as a result of human caused extinctions.

In the UK we have no predators larger than foxes and badgers. While these animals might take a tiny abandoned deer fawn, they are incapable of taking much more than this.

In the past we had wolves, bears and lynx.

European Lynx rarely leave their woodland home

I will talk about wolves and bears in other articles, but the lynx is different. This is an in depth look at some of the issues that are at play here. As such, this article is perhaps a bit longer that this blogs articles normally are.

Lynx are virtually exclusively forest animals, which means that for the most part they did not prey on our livestock. Indeed it has been shown that far more often than not, a Lynx walking the edge of a woodland will not attack sheep 10m outside. This idea is confirmed by what happens in Romania; there is a population of around 1300-2800 lynx (I realize that this population range is wide, this is the problem with dealing with a species rarely seen), and it is estimated that in the worst areas of the world lynx might kill a sheep once every 2 years – or an annual loss of perhaps 2000 out of 9 million that live in Romania.

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A second attempt to introduce lynx into Northumberland is being proposed

The UK has been predator free (at least large predators that can threaten humans and have to regularly kill to survive) for roughly 300 years. Wolves disappeared around 300 years ago, bears are thought to have gone extinct around 1,000 years ago and lynx are thought that have gone extinct about 1,300 years ago.

Wild lynx can be incredibly impressive when seen, but most of the time they are not seen even by though whose job means they spend their time in the same habitat. Not that people don’t try, lynx are charismatic animals and people will spend much time trying to get a glimpse
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