Nicola Sturgeon urged to reintroduce wolves in Scotland to 'control deer numbers'

Ms Sturgeon has been told the move would “greatly reduce the current financial burden”

Published

The Highlands and Grampian mountains would be the best places to reintroduce wolves, a paper from Manchester Metropolitan University’s department of natural sciences argued.

The team’s suggestion would “greatly reduce” the financial strain placed on Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish Government by deer numbers.

Researchers pinpointed the two areas as the reintroduced wolves would have ample food and low chances of contact with humans and vehicles.

Wild deer cause millions of pounds worth of damage to young trees every year.

The paper, put together by Vashti Gwynn and Elias Symeonakis, argued that the absence of wolves has allowed deer populations to increase “beyond ecological sustainability”.

Eurasian grey wolf
Eurasian grey wolf
Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands

They wrote: “Evidence is growing that apex predators provide a range of ecological benefits, most stemming from the reduction of overgrazing by deer - something from which Scotland suffers.”

The reintroduction of grey wolves to North America’s Yellowstone National Park in 1995 has been credited with improving species diversity and river hydrology.

Previous studies have estimated that wolves being reintroduced in Scotland for 60 years would lead to deer densities tumbling to a sustainable level of seven per square kilometre.

But the study’s authors did acknowledge that the impact on livestock farming and public opinion would have to be considered.

Wolves were driven to extinction in Scotland in the late 17th century, via a combination of hunting and deforestation.

Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) last year warned that deer numbers had doubled to almost a million since 1990 as it set out plans for a cull of female deer to tackle millions of pounds of damage to trees.

Ms Sturgeon’s SNP has given the green light to reintroduce beavers north of the border.

But they have so far given no indication they plan to follow suit with wolves.

Former Rural Economy Minister Fergus Ewing said four years ago that wolves, bears, or lynx would be reintroduced “over his dead body”.

Francesca Osowska, chief executive of government agency NatureScot, also warned last year that demands to reintroduce predators threatened to seriously damage public support for rewilding the British countryside.

A spokesman for NatureScot said there were no plans to consider the reintroduction of wolves.

He told The Telegraph: “Reintroduction projects are complex and need very careful consideration and planning to ensure national and international guidelines are met.”