Rewilding — the act of reintroducing native species to a country or continent — is an idea gaining traction in the UK, with over 44% of the population in favor of reintroducing lynx and wolves into the natural environment. Both species experienced extinction in the country primarily due to overhunting; however, exact causes are hard to determine because of when the extinction took place.
The elimination of wolves, lynx and other apex predators resulted in an overpopulation of prey species, particularly deer. By re-establishing a population of once natural predators, the country is hoping to curb the negative population trend of deer, especially as it relates to overgrazing and migration.
The Human Effect
While the precise reasons for exterminating specific apex predators are unclear, the consensus explains it as a necessary transition for a more prosperous society. Farmers made up the economy, and predators made it difficult to tend to and maintain livestock. Therefore, predators were hunted, and the natural order disrupted, resulting in population explosions of prey species.
While the initial effects were beneficial, today, deer are a serious nuisance to areas because of overgrazing. Additionally, prey animals are becoming desensitized to human interaction, making instincts to forage and migrate obsolete. Deer are like wild pets, unfortunately losing the survival instinct and changing the ecosystem for the worse.
The Necessity of Predators
Predators, such as lynx and wolves, create a necessary fear and order to a location. Deer, fearing becoming a predator’s meal, are careful not to overgraze a field and leave evidence of its actions; they will migrate to reduce the risks of capture. Additionally, a predator maintains population control, ensuring that animals, like deer, have enough food and shelter.
The Societal Benefits of Rewilding
Population control is not the only benefit to bringing back wolves and lynx to the UK. Some rewilding proponents believe the measure would also bolster tourism, adding an essential income stream to smaller cities through wildlife spotting.
Even with lynx and wolves, animals that tend to shy away from people, tourism experts believe wildlife photographers and others will come from miles around to attempt to photograph the animals in their once natural habitat. Even if people are not paying for photography tours, they will likely still need places to eat and rest, making the proposal of rewilding interesting.
The Hurdles to Overcome
Even with the potential benefits, some citizens remain skeptical of reintroducing once-native species. First, many are concerned about existing livestock, like sheep. While the intention is for the wolves and lynx to hunt deer, what is to stop the predators from hunting easier targets.
Additionally, many people worry about public safety and the effect on roaming rights. Many UK citizens worry about the safety of walking trails or paths when there is a lynx or wolf on the prowl. While some rewilding experts have attempted to appease those worried about animal attacks, they have done so by suggesting a compromise on public access to lands.
While rewilding is continuing to gain steam across the UK, it is still not a sure thing, especially when it comes to apex predators, like wolves and lynx. However, every year, people seem to get more open to the idea, meaning one day wolves and lynx might roam free again.
What do you think about the concept of rewilding? Can you think of any species you might want to see reintroduced to your area? Leave a comment below.