“Rewilding / Reintroduction of wolves into Scotland” – Tony’s view

Dear BBC Wildlife Magazine,

I write in response to your Article ‘A Land fit for Wolves’ June 19, 2019.

As the founder of a privately owned single species rescue and education centre, Wolf Watch UK, I have kept Wolves in large natural enclosures on a continuous basis for almost thirty five years.

Reintroducing the Wolf to the British Isles has been discussed by numerous bodies and individuals for as long as I can remember. Driven by media and those dedicated to re wilding Great Britain the subject has held attention, albeit for short periods, before fading away in the mists of a romantic notion.

Comparisons with the success story of Yellowstone Park are often sited as a good reason for giving the idea credibility. The half a million or so Red Deer that roam Scotland have no natural predator and the damage they do in preventing the natural regrowth of forests is surely a reason in itself for a ‘trial run’ or ‘pilot scheme.’

Or is it? Perhaps we should remember several unfavourable differences…Yellowstone Park is some three and a half thousand square miles of wilderness (about the size of Wales.) We should also consider the number of Wolves needed to make an acceptable ‘Dent’ in the estimated number of Scottish Deer and if we happen to get the equation correct, what happens when such a large number of Wolves start to breed and disperse. Let’s say the average territory of a family pack of European Wolves is a hundred square miles (depending on prey density) I start to see some shrinkage in the possibilities for such a programme.

Then look at the inevitable cost of an environmental impact study. It would cost many millions of pounds sterling. Maybe similar to a high speed railway scheme and it might take longer. Although I could suggest it would be of far more use. Nevertheless, with the tax payer footing the bill who would take the risk of the outcome becoming a none event.

The State of Wyoming envisaged correctly that their project would have an enormous positive effect on the Yellowstone tourist industry as well as the environment. Could we realistically forecast the same for Scotland.

As a farmer in Scotland would you welcome a pack of self catering Wolves roaming the hills amongst your livestock. Those who became adversely affected would likely persecute this intruder and drive him to more remote places. The absence of tourist infrastructure in such places would need to be addressed. Such practices might also cause the animal to consider nocturnal activities to be safer. Could the sale of night glasses reduce some of the costs!

Livestock compensation schemes, extra shepherds, guard dogs and the like, all cost money.

Looking back through history and returning to the present day, many of the reasons that brought about the Wolf’s extinction in Great Britain are not just still in place, but have increased dramatically. These include competition with many aspects of agriculture such as livestock and space. And above all too many people, some of whom simply don’t want this to happen.

Of course the Wolf would present little or no threat to the human population and what a fabulous sight it would make to watch this animal in such a beautiful landscape. But, let us not forget that we are a nation that currently has difficulties in living side by side to badgers and foxes and many other species.

Amongst the many discussions on this subject I have rarely heard mention a most important consideration, that being ‘ Would it be good for the Wolf.’ In my opinion the answer is ‘No.’
Constantly having to look over your shoulder to see if you are being chased by two and a half ounces of lead shot is a high price to pay for freedom.

The Industrial Revolution brought about development to our land, but not a great deal of thought with regard to sustainability. We are now paying the price for that. Our own selfish needs have paid scant regard for other species that share the planet, let alone encouragement for them to increase alongside us. So we now juggle with what we have left in a foolish attempt to live with less.

If indeed the Wolf won the lottery and no expense was to be spared, would it not make more sense to choose a less overcrowd country where it is already indigenous, has a good chance of remaining so, but needs our help through Investment and education.

Finally, I both admire and respect Jim Crumley for his knowledge and passion for the Scottish landscape, but as much as I would love to see the Wolf’s return there, many other environmental priorities are stacking up and begging our attention.

With Best Wishes,

Tony Haighway,


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