How Would Agriculture in the UK Change if the Lynx were Introduced? – Guest post by Emily Folk

The impacts on agriculture in the UK from introducing a new predator have yet to be determined.

As humans, we have made huge impacts on this world—some of them good, and some of them bad. With the growth of our population and the need to feed those people, we have developed technologies and techniques that ensure that food is readily available. From planting crops to domesticating animals, we have figured out a way to keep our food close and sustainable.

Also with the increase in population and the advancements in technology, we have expanded into new areas and territories, oftentimes at the determent of the environment. Even if our farming techniques don’t change the landscape, our desire for nice things (such as fur) does.

The lynx in the UK was hunted to extinction more than 1,300 years ago for their fur.  There is now, however, is an opportunity to bring the feline back to its natural habitat and give it a chance to thrive and survive. But not everyone is excited about that prospect.

Will Sheep Become Prey?

One of the biggest concerns in the UK about bringing the lynx back is whether or not it will prey on sheep, particularly lambs. This is a real concern considering that sheep are these farmers’ livelihood. They depend on their livestock to have sufficient income to provide for their families. If sheep are lost to predation, then so is the income and sustenance they were raised to bring in as well as losing the breeding line of livestock. Many of these lines have been in the farm for generations, and losing them would be a great blow to the farmer.

While the fear and concern are understandable, there are groups who claim that they are unfounded. The Lynx UK Trust is the group that is pushing the hardest for the re-introduction of the cat, and they claim that numerous studies from other areas and with other re-introduced species show that lynx won’t bother livestock. Of course, the only way to know for sure if this is true is to see what happens when the lynx is re-introduced into the wild.

Ways to Combat Sheep Predation

If lynx are re-introduced into the wild, there are steps farmers can take to ensure the safety of their livestock. One of these is adding llamas into their herds. In the U.S., llamas are used on ranches to protect sheep from coyotes, and the results are encouraging, with ranchers who use llamas as guards reporting a 100 percent reduction in sheep loss to predation.

In the UK, farmers could be offered free llamas to have on their property to keep their livestock safe should lynx be re-introduced into the area. It would seem that this gesture would be a win-win for farmers and conservationists alike: sheep are protected, and a native animal gets re-introduced into their wild lands.

There’s no denying that we humans make an impact on the world, and not always in the most beneficial ways. However, we have the chance and the ability to right some of those wrongs, and the re-introduction of the lynx into its natural, wild habitat is an attempt to do just that. We can restore some of the biodiversity that was once a part of the UK. Of course, there are unknowns about how the process will go, but by working together, there’s a chance to make the area a place where both ranchers and lynx can thrive.

 

Emily is a freelance conservation writer. She covers topics in wildlife conservation and sustainable agriculture. To see more of her posts, see her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “How Would Agriculture in the UK Change if the Lynx were Introduced? – Guest post by Emily Folk

  1. I would be interested to know whether there is evidence that llamas, as camelids, are more susceptible to bovine TB than sheep are. What steps will be taken to make sure that the llamas given to sheep farmers are not carrying bTB? I am not only concerned for the farmers’ flocks, but also the potential of introducing bTB to the wildlife in non-hotspot areas.

    I am also concerned that coyote are not an exact predatory parallel with lynx. I’d like to know more about this.

    • Hi,

      That’s a really good question. I haven’t found evidence yet that llamas are more susceptible to bTB. I know there have been issues with alpacas having bTB because testing is not required. From what I’ve read, there hasn’t been too much discussion on bTB for introducing llamas to sheep, but my suggestion for a resolution would be requiring regular testing for llamas as well as testing before introduction to the flock.

      In regards to the effectiveness of the llama, I haven’t found any exact studies or statistics for llamas protecting from lynx. However, because llamas have a natural instinct to protect its herd, they will defend against predators. The only circumstances thus far when llamas have proven ineffective is against a pack of coyotes or wolves rather than an individual animal. There’s also evidence that llamas can bond not only with the sheep flock but also with guard dogs.

      I hope this is helpful!

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