If someone had asked me a year ago what my dissertation would involve, there is no way I would have replied “emailing people asking for their deer poo”. Yes, that is just the start of my project. I’m looking at the potential reintroduction of Eurasian lynx into the Scottish highlands and the public’s views surrounding this.
I can almost guarantee that you are wondering how deer droppings fit into all of this.
When it is being suggested that we bring back a predator to Britain, the first thing many people worry about is what will it eat? No, lynx don’t eat humans. But there is a real threat of the lynx preying on livestock, rather than wild animals, which is a concern to farmers and the general public. I will be testing whether the two lynx in captivity at Wildwood will prefer deer or sheep to prey on. Don’t worry, I won’t be giving them live sheep and deer, this is where the dung comes in. I’m planning on filling two sacks, one with sheep dung and one with deer dung and placing them both into the lynx enclosure. (Hopefully) the two lynx will show a preference to one of the sacks, which would suggest their prey preference in the wild in Scotland.
The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is the largest of the lynx species, and is the third largest predator in Europe, after the brown bear and grey wolf. These three species could all be seen in the wild in Britain until around the 18th and 19th centuries, but now, we don’t have any top level carnivores here. I’ve had a lot of people asking me what a lynx actually is, and it’s a cat. Not the kind the old lady down the road has a collection of, nor is it a big cat on the scale of a tiger or a lion, but somewhere in between, around the size of a border collie dog. The photo below is of one of the lynx at Wildwood (photo credit: Butcher, 2012).
Wildwood is located in Herne Bay, Kent and is home to over 200 native animals. Whilst you can’t see all of these species in the wild today, they have all existed in Britain at various times in the past. Animals you can see here range from the grey wolf and reindeer to birds such as the stork and barn owl, as well as reptiles, for example the European pond tortoise.
I’m really excited to start my placement at Wildwood (more information about the Trust at www.wildwood.org), and if you’d like to follow my progress, then there’ll be further posts both here and on twitter, at www.twitter.com/amyshorter_geog