Plans submitted for lynx to be reintroduced at Kielder Forest

Eurasian lynx Credit: Chris Godfrey

The Lynx UK Trust has submitted an application to Natural England for permission to carry out a trial to reintroduce the medium-sized wild cats into Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

It is the first time an application has ever been made in the UK for this species or any apex predator.

If permission is given, six Eurasian lynx (four females and two males) will be reintroduced in the Kielder Forest region for a five year period, wearing satellite collars to monitor their movements.

The application comes just over a year after the Lynx UK Trust announced their intentions to explore the possibility of bringing the Eurasian lynx back into the British ecosystem.

It's likely the wild cats were wiped out by fur hunting and the loss of their natural habitat. But, the trust says their absence has contributed to an over population of their favourite prey; roe deer. Currently estimated at double the sustainable population size, the UK's deer species are said to be damaging the UK's native forest ecosystem causing problems all the way down the food chain.

Eurasian lynx have already been successfully reintroduced in countries including Germany, France and Switzerland. There are now thought to be around 10,000 of them across Europe, when numbers had dropped as low as 700.

The Lynx UK Trust says reintroducing them into Northumberland could be a major boost to the tourism industry.

An international team of experts have spent the last year detailing an approach to a reintroduction, consulting with national stakeholders, studying potential release sites, and consulting with local communities and businesses about the lynx and how a reintroduction might look.

Their findings have been extensively recorded and submitted this week to the statutory agency responsible for licensing species reintroductions in England, Natural England.

Whilst any releases would take place in England, the lynx may cross the border into Scotland and as such Scottish Natural Heritage are also remaining fully informed of all details of the application.

The Chief Scientific advisor on the project, Dr Paul O'Donoghue, said: "It is incredibly exciting to see it all come together..."

Tens of thousands of man hours of work by a huge team of people have gone into consultations shaping this final application which marks a significant milestone in the history of UK conservation; potentially the first return of an extinct predator, which could prove to be a really keystone species for our ecosystem.

“And the Lynx can bring huge benefits to the Kielder region; we could see a wave of economic regeneration as it becomes known as the kingdom of the lynx; a unique eco-tourism destination right in the middle of Britain. We've had a lot of positive feedback from local businesses and it would be amazing to work with them developing that, from the Angler's Arms pub in Kielder Village, already sporting a life-size replica lynx above the bar, to all kinds of new guest houses, guided walks and wildlife watching activities creating new jobs in the area.

“We've now reached a point where we feel every piece of research has been done, every concern that can be raised has been raised, and the only way to move truly forward is with an intensively monitored trial reintroduction of a small number of cats. That can tell us exactly how suitable the lynx would be for a larger reintroduction. We very much hope the lynx has the opportunity to prove it can bring so much to the local community and the UK as a whole.”

The Trust will now wait on a response from Natural England.