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Would you be happy sharing your local woodland with top predators?

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…especially if you live just north of Bristol.

In a multi-million pound project launched by the Bristol Zoological Society four European brown bears, five European grey wolves, two Eurasian lynx and two wolverine will be living side by side in Britain for the first time in over a millennium.

As part of the Society’s Wild Place Project, Bear Wood, a 7.5 acre site near Junction 17 of the M5, due to open on 25th July, will offer visitors the chance to travel back to a time when these top predators were native to the UK.

The wood is the latest stage of the project, part funded by European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and sponsored by Bristol-based company Natracare.

Dr Justin Morris, chief executive of Bristol Zoological Society: “Bear Wood tells the story of the UK’s ancient woodland and the charismatic species that once inhabited it – now brought back in one spectacular immersive experience.”

The facility features an immersive bear viewing den with 180-degree, floor-to-ceiling glass and a raised wooden walkway which will give visitors an aerial view of the exhibit from up to four metres above the ground.

A team of rangers will be on hand to point out native species at home in the woodland throughout the year. Den cameras and monitors will offer secret insights into the wildlife living in the exhibit.

“We hope Bear Wood will also inspire visitors about the woodland and wildlife we have left, encouraging them to protect what remains.”

If all goes well, the project hopes to open new dialogues about ‘re-wilding’ – the attempted return of specific ecosystems to their time before human intervention.

It’s not a new concept – pine martens, wild boar, and most recently beavers have all been restored to our countryside but although the creatures in Bear Wood will roam free within the site, there are no initial plans for a breeding programme.

Some conservationists are keen to re-introduce top predators:  

Grey Wolves

Wolves, statistically less dangerous than bees or dogs, have long been a target for Scottish conservationists; the re-introduction of wolves to the Highlands is now a realistic prospect with some high-profile proponents – Peter Lister, Laird of the Alladale Estate, is particularly keen, and has offered his own land as host for two packs.

In the US, wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, and have rapidly reined in an elk population that was decimating the park’s natural habitat.

Some universities suggest Scotland’s red deer population could be kept in check in the same way.

European brown bears

The reintroduction of European brown bears, on the other hand, is regarded with some trepidation and considerable opposition by farmers.   Although sites have been considered around the Cairngorms or Fort William, conservationists are understandably wary of unleashing a 600lb bear on the UK population.

Wolverine

Wolverines are also considered an unrealistic proposal for re-introduction.  Although wary of man, they have massive appetites and can tackle prey several times their size.  So, along with bears, wolverine is one of the less-likely species to be restored.

Eurasian Lynx

The lynx, however, is arguably the most realistic re-introduction.  It is the third largest of Europe’s predators, after wolves and bears, and is a solitary, elusive hunter.  The Lynx UK Trust is in talks with farms over potential livestock compensation and opportunities for tourism.

Under the stewardship of Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Defra recently turned down an application by the Trust to release six Eurasian lynxes in Kielder Forest in Northumberland, though it stressed it was open to similar proposals in the future.

What are your feelings about lynx or even wolves roaming our countryside?  Do you believe the British public would ever accept a top predator living on UK soil?  Do you think it’s a good idea to re-introduce native species?

Would you be happy sharing your local woodland with top predators?

413 people have already voted, what's your opinion? Yes No

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Tr1sh
15th Aug 2019
0
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Not if they were free to roam without restriction. I wouldn't want to bump into a bear on my way home!

Sadly, the habitats these animals once roamed have now been lost to towns and farms etc.
Munsterlander
29th Jul 2019
2
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I am all for it. We need to get our population down to manageable levels like 20 million in the UK and have mush more land for our wildlife.
AngelaB46
27th Jul 2019
1
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As long as we don't start destroying the habitat they are using this is a great idea
Missymoo
26th Jul 2019
1
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Would be too scared to walk my little dog or even alone
SheilaS43
26th Jul 2019
1
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The UK is too small an island to reintroduce these wild animals.
Collie
24th Jul 2019
2
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I agree because it helps even out the numbers. As far as hunting is concerned I am totally against that. Humans hunt for the fun whereas animals hunt to eat.

Ban hunting, reintroduce predatory animals.
Felix1
23rd Jul 2019
2
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Would you still want the animals if you came face to face with them? We do not hunt as we used to. Stupid idea.
Mozy
23rd Jul 2019
2
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Better than two legged predators I wouldn’t mind we probably have them anyway in Scotland,
Bald123
23rd Jul 2019
2
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They are lovely. So long its not near our cities they should be reintroduced.
ponocio
22nd Jul 2019
4
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I think we have enough Greenland to share with them, also they would naturally keep down populations of rabbits etc instead of the barbaric culling that is used presently
SueB3243
21st Jul 2019
3
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We don’t have sufficient woodlands to maintain lynx or wolves & definitely not enough prey for them, they would prey on farm animals & pets. We have ponies & live semi rural. I would be worried about their safety
Wilf
21st Jul 2019
4
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Yes of course they were here first. More isolated spots like Scotland or Wales would be best for them
Rosedeb
21st Jul 2019
4
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Could foresee lots of problems with this, there's a reason we don't have very dangerous animals running loose in our woods and forests, they are territorial and would attack and kill people. Some people would attack and kill them.
Nice idea but not very practical
BeeI
26th Jul 2019
0
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Maybe it would be good to keep the human population down! They were here first!
Munsterlander
29th Jul 2019
0
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Good idea and so true!
susanross886
21st Jul 2019
4
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In theory it’s a nice idea & I would love it to be possible, but the UK is too crowded & too many forests have gone. I foresee nothing but problems with the idea. These animals like foxes would encroach on suburbia & farmland & then people would be poisoning & shooting them just like they do with foxes. We simply don’t have enough wild spaces far from human activity for this to work, it would be bad for both humans & the poor animals we introduce.
Yodama
20th Jul 2019
5
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I wouldn't feel happy having wild animals near me without a means of defending myself.
What if they see me as lunch?
That would mean a re-introduction of guns or defensive weapons...kind of defeats the object of the exercise doesn't it?
Munsterlander
29th Jul 2019
0
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Yes but wildlife is mostly afraid of humans anyway and with good reason.
Yodama
30th Jul 2019
0
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I love wildlife and applaud the idea of re-wilding, but this is a tiny island and the idea is not feasible at this time.
As you quite rightly say, humans are the problem, far too many.
The question was, could we live alongside them in today's conditions.

Having lived with wild animals around me, not all are shy.
Wolves in a pack are something to be feared.
Lynxes do attack when confronted.
We in Britain are not permitted to walk with weapons so a nice walk in the woods unarmed could be dangerous.
VeraS
20th Jul 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
I wouldnt mind as long as they were left alone

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