Landowner urges return of wolf and lynx to Scotland
By Auslan Cramb, Scotland Correspondent
The biggest foreign landowner in Scotland called yesterday for the
reintroduction of wolves and lynx to add “excitement” to the countryside.
Paul van Vlissingen, a millionaire Dutch businessman, said the Government
should consider bringing back large predators in order to boost overseas
He added that no one had been killed by a wolf in Europe in the past
century, and suggested that the animals could be tracked by satellite, and
farmers could be compensated if they attacked livestock.
Small conservation groups have called for the return of the European grey
wolf, but Mr van Vlissingen is the first prominent landowner to support
the idea. He said he would be happy to have them released on his estate in
The last wolf in Britain was killed in Morayshire in 1743, but the lynx
has been missing for the past 1,800 years.
He put forward the idea after publishing the result of a £300,000
privately-funded three-year study by biologists and botanists that showed
that traditional culling is having little impact on deer numbers.
Scientists found that the population of 4,000 deer on the 80,000-acre
Letterewe estate was controlled by winter weather and competition for
food, rather than the annual cull by stalkers.
Mr van Vlissingen said the findings suggested that deer were not being
properly managed, and called on the Scottish Executive to fund detailed
research into the animals.
One of the aims of deer culling is to reduce grazing pressure to allow
native trees to regenerate, but the study, by Prof Tim Clutton-Brock of
Cambridge University and Prof Michael Crawley of Imperial College,
suggests that common culling levels of 12 to 15 per cent would have to
rise to 80 per cent to make a substantial difference to the survival of
Mr van Vlissingen suggested that Scotland could be divided into zones
managed for deer, and areas managed for native trees, with deer eliminated
from the landscape.
He also proposed the return of the wolf and lynx – which would have a
small impact on deer numbers – to help to revive Scotland’s flagging
“I think wolves and lynx would fit very well into areas of land managed
for deer,” he said. “In this century there are no known cases of anybody
being eaten by wolves in Europe, and there are thousands of people living
among wolves in Canada and Alaska.
“With modern telemetry you can fit them with tags and follow them by
satellite technology and if there is damage you can set up a system of
“Scotland needs to become far more successful than it is at the moment in
tourism. Scotland has to create more excitement than the tired old monster
of Loch Ness. There is an enormous interest in eco-tourism building up in
Research four years ago found that 36 per cent of people would support the
wolf being released in the wild, with 20 per cent undecided. However, the
percentage was lower in the Highlands.
Rob Gibson, the Scottish National Party prospective candidate for
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – where sporting estates dominate
the countryside – said he would not rule out the idea, but it would have
to be looked at very carefully.
Call of wild to help in deer cull
WOLVES and lynx should be reintroduced in parts of Scotland to help keep
red deer numbers down as culling alone has not worked, a landowner claimed
Paul van Vlissingen, who owns a 32,000-hectare estate at Letterewe, near
Loch Maree in Wester Ross, made the claim at the launch in Inverness of a
three-year study of deer and their impact in the wild.
He first came to Scotland 25 years ago and, as a gift to the Scottish
people, commissioned the report into the ecological effects of red deer in
the Highlands, particularly on Letterewe. Employing five scientists, the
project cost around £300,000.
Mr van Vlissingen said A Highland Deer Herd and its Habitat concluded
that, contrary to belief, culling of deer – except near total removal -
had a low long-term effect on their numbers.
Around 70,000 red deer are officially culled each year, leaving a
population of around 300,000 to 350,000. But Mr Vlissingen said: “Culling
of deer – as has been happening for many years under official policy – has
not been effective … the present situation is unsustainable. It doesn’t
He believes the research proved that under certain circumstances herds
would naturally self-regulate population, but he thought other measures
should now be considered.
“I think that something that could be debated is to divide Scotland into
voluntary zones. Some areas where you have practically eliminated deer,
those areas you want specific natural regeneration of forests, and other
areas where you manage deer as part of a concept of wild land.
“In that concept, I think wolves and lynx would fit very well. I can
promise you that in the last 100 years there are no known cases of anybody
ever having been eaten by a wolf in Europe. And there are thousands and
thousands of people who live amongst the wolves in Canada and Alaska, and
there is no problem at all.”
He did not think the wolves or lynx would have too much impact on the deer
numbers, but could prove important to the tourist industry. The lynx left
Scotland 8000 years ago, while the last wolf is thought to have been
killed around the time of Culloden (1746)
“I would hope that Scotland would be far more successful than it has been
in tourism. Scotland is losing business … There are so many other places
in the world where people can fly on cheap airline tickets, and they are
so much more exciting.
“Scotland has to create more excitement than a monster in Loch Ness. There
is an enormous eco-tourism industry building up in the world and Scotland
is losing out.
“Wolves and lynx might take only 5% or 10% of the deer population, but it
would create tremendous excitement … Certainly, I would be happy to have
them reintroduced to Letterewe.”
Nick Reiter, director of the Deer Commission for Scotland, was not
convinced. He thought having some areas where there were deer in numbers
and others where there were virtually none would not provide a natural
balance, and would raise as many environmental problems as those it sought
to solve. Culling was still necessary, he said.
George Baxter, spokesman for WWF, said yesterday: “I have not read the
research published today but I am very surprised by its conclusions. Most
scientists and observers see culling as a vitally important element in
regulating deer numbers. It must also be remembered that many owners of
sporting estates see culling as contrary to their own commercial