HOWL OF THE WOLF
The Scottish Highlands used to be home to lush pine forests patrolled by bears, wolves and lynx. In mainland Europe, some predators have been returning to their historic homelands by themselves, but they can’t swim the channel. ‘If we give them a helping hand, large carnivores can help to restore Scotland’s landscape,’ says Paul Lister, a passionate proponent of rewilding and founder of the European Nature Trust.
In 2003, Lister purchased 23,000 acres of denuded land just north of Inverness. Overgrazing by an unchecked deer population had rendered the land treeless and barren. The land is now the Alladale Wilderness Reserve, where some 800,000 native trees have been planted, red squirrels have been reintroduced and golden eagle numbers have soared. The culmination of the plan is to reintroduce wolves, albeit with the UK’s size very much in mind. ‘Releasing a load of wolves is not a very sensible thing to do at the moment,’ says Lister. ‘But bringing them back into a fenced reserve of 50,000-plus acres could be a solution. That would allow you to have controls, to measure ecological impacts and to gauge societal attitudes.’ Lister urges a shake-up of our relationship with nature in Europe. ‘The big question is, are we prepared to start the process of change? Are we prepared to see Europe become a properly functioning landscape again?’
Will the wolf ever return to Scotland?