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:
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.
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.
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?
What are your views?
We'd love to hear your comments
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!