Following centuries of decline due to deforestation, persecution and overhunting, the lynx has been reintroduced to several European countries since the 1970s – including in busy areas more densely populated than the Highlands, and which are used for farming, hunting, forestry and tourism. The lynx's shyness and small size mean attacks on humans are virtually unknown.
“The lynx is staging a comeback across Europe – but in Scotland returning top predators remains a prickly conversation, often based on misunderstandings. This book aims to address that by offering a balanced discussion,” said Peter Cairns, Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.
In Scotland, there would be scope for conflict between lynx and human hunters of deer, but probably less so than in other countries, where there are fewer deer and more hunters. Impact on red deer stalking is unlikely to be significant because lynx are shy ambush-hunters, which avoid open areas and instead prefer smaller woodland deer such as roe and sika. Lynx also avoid red deer stags, which are most sought after by human hunters.
“Attacks by lynx on sheep grazed in open pasture are relatively rare, but occasionally happen. Switzerland's 250 lynx cause livestock losses of 20 to 50 animals each year, while preying on 12,500 wild roe deer and chamois annually. Nevertheless, farmers here would need to be reassured that negative local impacts could be managed,” said Hetherington.
This could be achieved by using and adapting methods tested in other countries for years – such as livestock protection measures, compensation schemes, and even lethal control.
Based on evidence from other countries, there would be no significant impact on threatened species such as wildcats and capercaillie. Meanwhile, lynx are known to routinely prey on foxes, which do prey on capercaillie and can compete with wildcats for food.