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The controversial plan to bring wolves back to the Highlands

1 February 2018

Landowner Paul Lister has a grand vision: to see wolves return to the Scottish Highlands.

“Over the last decade wolves have migrated right throughout Europe,” he explained on Out of Doors. “They’re in every country bar Great Britain.”

There’s way too much livestock and far too many people in Great Britain to give wolves the freedom of the countryside
Paul Lister

Paul has been inspired by the successful reintroduction programme at Yellowstone Park in the US, which has resulted in financial benefits to the rural economy as well as environmental benefits such as a reduced number of deer and more vegetation growth.

The Yellowstone scheme saw wolves being reintroduced to the wild, but Paul believes a direct copy would not be suitable for Scotland.

“If you release wolves into the Scottish Highlands they will migrate and breed and they will probably end up eating livestock,” he said.

“There’s way too much livestock and far too many people in Great Britain to give wolves the freedom of the countryside.”

Fenced-off land

Paul’s long-held dream is for a controlled release by fencing an area of land and keeping the wolves inside.

But the plan is controverisal, not least because it infringes on Scotland’s Land Reform Act which allows the public a right of access over land. The scheme would require 50,000 acres of land to be closed off to give the wolves space to roam.

Paul believes guided tours of the land would allow people to see the wolves in the wild.

“I appreciate the access issues and legislation and I think we will come to some agreement with those bodies involved to be able to ensure that they’re satisfied and keen and supportive of the vision” he said.

And, according to Paul, those who are concerned about the potential for Jurassic Park-style breakouts don’t have to worry.

“[We’ll have] ten wolves in 50,000 acres. We’ll know where they are because they’ll be satellite tracked. There’ll be plenty of food in the reserve and there’ll be no incentive for them to want to get out.”

But he added, “If anything did get out, as we’ve seen in the news recently, they’re easy to retrieve“.

The programme in full

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