HOWL OF THE WOLF

Geographical - - REWIL­D­ING -

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?

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