Across mainland Europe, the Eurasian lynx is staging a comeback. Freed from the pressures of unsustainable hunting and benefiting from a softening of public attitudes, this enigmatic feline has been successfully reintroduced into several countries and is now gaining in number and expanding its range.
IS SCOTLAND READY FOR LYNX?
There have been several studies to evaluate the ecological feasibility of returning lynx to Scotland but until now, people’s beliefs and perceptions around the concept have not been fully assessed. Throughout 2021, the Lynx to Scotland partners carried out a comprehensive study to accurately evaluate the social feasibility of bringing back lynx.
The study revealed wide-ranging perspectives from stakeholders, including farmers, gamekeepers, foresters, conservationists, landowners, tourism operators and rural communities. The study showed that views about lynx reintroduction are far more diverse, nuanced and complex than a simple ‘for’ and ‘against’.
Five different broad perspectives were identified from those who considered Scotland ready for lynx to those who are firmly opposed, while other contributors were either not yet convinced or felt that Scotland was not yet ready.
The Lynx to Scotland study showed a consensus for the establishment of a cross-sector consultation to further explore the benefits and barriers to lynx reintroduction; to build trust between stakeholders and to address areas of disagreement over science and local knowledge. This process will take place during the course of 2022-23.
The study also revealed significant knowledge gaps about lynx behaviour and the Lynx to Scotland partners are working to fully inform people’s perceptions around living alongside lynx.
In parallel with this work, partners are undertaking the necessary ecological and practical assessments that would be needed to enable a reintroduction of lynx.