Escaped lynx kills seven sheep, a stark warning?
7th November 2017
Amid the ongoing application process being considered by Natural England to release Eurasian Lynx into the UK countryside, the National Sheep Association (NSA) wants to alert people to an incident in Wales in recent days in which seven sheep were killed by a lynx.
NSA has been made aware that a captive Eurasian lynx, exactly the same species proposed by Lynx UK Trust in its release application, escaped from Borth Zoo, Aberystwyth almost a week ago. After several days in the wild, it killed seven sheep in one clinical attack, while traumatising several others in the flock.
NSA understands the cause of death was determined by post-mortem conducted by Welsh Government Officials, which was confirmed as a single bite to the neck and subsequent internal bleeding. NSA understands two sheep were partly eaten, while the remaining five appeared to be killed purely out of instinct, just as a domestic cat might do with prey such as mice.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: There cannot be a clearer warning of the damage lynx could do if they are released into the wild. And at a time when Lynx UK Trust’s application to release lynx into Kielder Forest, Northumberland is under review from Natural England, it could not be more timely.
“Lynx UK Trust continue to assure us that lynx, on average, will take just 0.4 sheep annually. A fact which is simply unbelievable given the damage just one is reported to have inflicted after several days of roaming free. This incident also backs up what we are hearing from a number of sheep farmers in Scandanavia and other parts of Europe who tell us of high losses they’ve experienced from individual lynx that develop the behavioral characteristic of an opportunistic hunter.”
NSA’s sympathy goes out to the farmer involved, who should also be commended for supporting the zoo owners as they continue to try to capture the animal.
Phil continues: “The risk lynx pose to sheep, and the subsequent anxiety which would be suffered by sheep farmers if they were released is clear, but NSA’s concerns reach far wider than that. Through their normal work, sheep farmers are continually supporting wildlife and grassland ecology and this valuable activity could be undermined if a lynx release were to go ahead.”
NSA has received assurances from Natural England that it will work closely with Scottish Government in considering Lynx UK Trust’s application, but it feels this level of collaboration should go even further.
Phil concludes: “The fact this attack has happened in Wales raises questions around the land mass similarity between that in the proposed release site of Kielder Forest and the area of Wales this incident took place. If the release goes ahead and the population expands in the way it is intended, the species could find its way into Wales years into the future without any consultation ever taking place there. For that reason, NSA believes approval should be sought from the relevant bodies England, Scotland and Wales before any decision is reached.”
NSA produced a report – ‘The wider consequences of the introduction of Eurasian lynx to the UK’ – in April 2016. View the full report online at www.nationalsheep.org.uk/policy-work.