Monday, February 22, 2016

Hey Scotland: Let’s bring back bears and wolves



Brown bear (Ursus arctos), Katmai National Park, Alaska
Many Scottish estates are struggling – let’s bring back bears and wolves say Ben Fogle  Credit: Alamy


The Great Wood of Caledon once covered most of the Scottish Highlands. Just one per cent of it remains.
Last week I joined Paul Lister, a conservationist, at the Alladale Wilderness Reserve, to find out about his plans to make the area wild again.
Lister wants to reintroduce wolves and bears to hunt the sheep and red deer that now live there and restore the balance of the ecosystem.
The argument goes that we destroyed much of the forest during the Industrial Revolution. We have since planted conifers and heather to add to the Scottish pines. But the biggest threat to the trees comes from sheep and deer, which eat the seedlings.


Eurasian grey wolf Canis lupus lupus, aka European, Common, Forest wolf. Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Highland, Scotland
Credit: David Lyons /Alamy
Lister’s vision has been hampered by a law that says wild animals must be fenced in. The stalemate has lasted more than a decade.
Exploring the wild moorland and finding out about Lister’s work was humbling and inspiring. I know the idea of returning wolves and bears to an area is emotive, but I can’t understand why anyone would ultimately be against such an exciting project.
Lister’s dream has already been realised at Yellowstone National Park in northwest America and the Pantanal in Brazil, South America.


Hot spring at the Yellowstone national park
Hot spring at the Yellowstone national park Credit: Alamy
People needn’t be scared of letting predators roam the land – I have slept in areas where both wolves and bears live. The project should be celebrated; it would draw tourists the area.
Many Scottish estates cling to hunting and fishing for survival. This model could change land management throughout the country as well as our landscape, if only we allow it to happen.

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