Lynx attack on sheep increases industry body tension
Published:  09 November, 2017

An escaped Eurasian lynx has been blamed for the death of seven Welsh sheep. 

The attack on the livestock comes amid plans to reintroduce the predator into the Kielder Forest area of the UK. However, these proposals, which are still being considered by Natural England, has faced tough opposition by farming bodies, in particular the National Sheep Association (NSA). 

Using this as leverage, the NSA has highlighted that this is an example of the risks that would be posed should plans go ahead to introduce the lynx. According to the association, the cause of death to the sheep was the result of a single bite to the neck, resulting in internal bleeding. Two of the sheep were partially eaten, while the other five appeared to have been killed purely out of instinct. In addition to the deaths, several other sheep were apparently left traumatised.

“There cannot be a clearer warning of the damage lynx will do if they are released into the wild,” said NSA chief executive Phil Stocker. “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 continues 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 has inflicted after several days of roaming free. This incident also backs up what we are hearing from a number of sheep farmers in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, who tell us of high losses they’ve experienced from individual lynx that developed the behavioural characteristics of an opportunistic hunter.”

The NSA commended the farmer involved in the incident for working with the owners of Borth Zoo – where the animal escaped from – in recapturing it.

“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,” added Stocker.

“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.”

Subsequent to this incident, the NSA has expressed hopes that Natural England will further its collaboration with the Scottish government in considering Lynx UK Trust’s application. Due to the Kielder Forest being located close to the Scottish border, the lynx could potentially wonder into Scotland, should they be introduced.

Stocker also warned that the geographical similarities between the scene of the attack at the Kielder Forest should be a cause for concern. “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,” he said.

“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 in England, Scotland and Wales before any decision is reached.”

Meat Trades Journal has reached out to the Lynx UK Trust, but has yet to receive a response.