Highlands & Islands

Human 'wolf packs' in conservation study near Loch Ness

Team of volunteer "wolves" Image copyright Trees for Life
Image caption One of the teams of volunteer "wolves"

A research project involving groups of people replicating the behaviour of wolves has begun in a forest near Loch Ness.

Project Wolf aims to examine the effect large predators have on ecosystems, and not just the animals they hunt.

Volunteers working in teams of three "wolves" have been moving through woodland at Dundreggan Conservation Estate in Glenmoriston.

The groups disturb deer which feed on young trees and other plants.

Findhorn-based charity Trees for Life is running the project.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Wolves were hunted to extinction in Scotland in the 1700s

It has previously been involved in debates about reintroduction of wolves and lynx, large predators once native to Scotland.

The wolf was hunted to extinction in Scotland in the 1700s with some of the last killed in Sutherland and Moray.

Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life's founder, said: "Grazing pressure on young trees by too many deer, today undisturbed by natural predators, is the major threat to Scotland's native forests.

"This is starkly apparent in the surviving Caledonian Forest, where many remnants consist only of old and dying trees because young trees cannot survive the relentless browsing.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The project's teams replicate the behaviour of wolves in an effort to disturb grazing deer

"Project Wolf - an innovative answer to this challenge - is supporting our reforestation work by creating a 'landscape of disturbance'.

"By walking through Dundreggan's woodlands at unpredictable times, the volunteers mimic the effect of wolves in keeping deer on their toes and less likely to spend time leisurely eating seedlings and young trees."

Mr Watson Featherstone added: "This will encourage new trees to flourish - giving them the chance to form the next generation of forest giants that are desperately needed if the Caledonian Forest is to survive."

Project Wolf will run through until the end of summer.

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