Wolves and brown bears could return to British countryside to 'naturally cut deer population'
They are the snarling beasts of fiction and folklore, but conservationists are hoping to bring back wolves to the British countryside within the next 20 years.
The Wildwood Trust, which has successfully helped reintroduce beavers, water voles, pine martins and dormice to parts of the UK where they had become extinct, now wants to start ‘rewilding’ the country with larger creatures.
In March, the Trust brought a pack of six wolves from Sweden to its 200 acre parkland site in Escot, East Devon, where their behaviour is being monitored as part of an ongoing research project into animal domestication, and to see how they adapt to living in Britain.
Experts believe that introducing wolves back into the countryside could help control the burgeoning deer population which now stands at around 1.5 million animals, the highest it has been for 1,000 years.
Deer have no natural predators, and cause destruction to woodland habitat which provides food and shelter for native species. They also are responsible for around 50,000 traffic accidents and the death of 20 people each year.
Peter Smith, CEO of the Wildwood Trust, said the charity wants to reintroduce lynx in the next few years, followed by wolves in around two decades, and brown bears within 50 years. But they first must meet rewilding protocols set out by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and then gain a licence from Natural England.
“These animals were all once native to Britain, and the benefits they could bring to the ecology of Britain would be immense,” he said
“Wolves and lynx will change the behaviour of the deer, causing populations to drop naturally, which helps plants and trees to flourish.