The feasibility of reintroducing the Eurasian lynx, Lynx lynx to Scotland
This study investigates the feasibility of reintroducing the Eurasian lynx to Scotland by examining the history of the species in Britain, and by determining if there is sufficient habitat and prey for a viable population. Modern Scotland witnessed large-scale reafforestation during the 20th century, and many regions are now relatively well wooded. Deer populations have also grown considerably and deer now inhabit all parts of the Scottish mainland. Most sheep are no longer grazed in woodland, thus considerably reducing scope for lynx depredation on livestock. Furthermore, human attitudes towards the environment, wildlife and predators, are generally much more positive now than in previous centuries. A rule-based GIS analysis identified two large networks of habitat patches: one in the Highlands, and one in the Southern Uplands. Currently, the level of connectivity between the two networks is weak. By examining the relationship between lynx and wild ungulate densities in parts of Europe, it was predicted from the average deer biomass in the two networks, that the Highlands habitat network could support around 400 lynx, and the Southern Uplands, around 50 lynx. A Population Viability Analysis using the Leslie matrix-based software package RAMAS/age suggested that a lynx population living at a carrying capacity of 400 would be viable in the long term. However, a lynx population at a carrying capacity of 50 would be too small to be viable in isolation. Movement corridors between the Highlands and the Southern Uplands, which run through benign habitats and avoid significant barriers, are therefore essential for the long-term viability of a Southern Uplands lynx population. Despite their long absence, the reintroduction of lynx to Scotland is biologically feasible.