Bears and wolves to be reintroduced to woods near Bristol in pioneering project

  • Video report by ITV News Wales & West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

An ambitious project to reintroduce bears and wolves to woodland near Bristol is about to be realised.

For the first time in a millennium, the two species will come nose to nose in Britain. The mammals would have once called the British Isles home, but were slowly driven out as human populations expanded.

The habitat, called Bear Wood, is being set up at Bristol Zoological Society's Wild Place project south of the city.

Later this month, members of the public will see the species in a recreation of their natural habitat.

Conservationists are planning to slowly introduce the bears and wolves to one another, in a bid to get them to adapt to living together.

  • Species to get to know one another slowly

Wolves will be introduced to British woodlands near Bristol. Credit: ITV News

Will Walker, animal manager at the Wild Place, admitted introducing the two species is something that is giving him a few sleepless nights.

He said: "It's obviously a little bit nerve wracking putting two apex predators together, but it's not like this is the first time this has ever been done.

"Yes, it will take a long time until we're really comfortable that they are going to be happy living together.

"We'll introduce [the wolves] into an enclosure that sits next to the bear enclosure.

"They can see each other, get used to each other, smell each other.

"When we're confident with the wolves being able to get around the enclosure nicely, when they're happy with the bears, then we'll look at introducing them together."

Bears will coexist along wolves at the project, near Bristol. Credit: ITV News
  • Wider conversations around rewilding to be had in UK

There are ongoing conversations about reintroducing lynx to the wild in the United Kingdom.

Beavers, which were previously wiped out in the UK, have successfully been breeding again in Scotland.

Speaking to ITV News, Dr Justin Morris, chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society, said the prospect of reintroducing the bears and wolves into the wild in the UK is "highly unlikely".

He continued: "I say that because it's not just about how much space the animals need in terms of being a viable population in the wild.

"There's a reason why these animals aren't here now and that's basically us.

"At the end of the day, the UK is a pretty small island and I think we would want to be confident that the people that are going to coexist with those animals were prepared to do that."