Reintroducing the bear and wolf to Britain: valuable for our ecosystem or too dangerous to be attempted?

This morning while watching the news, it was mentioned that across Europe (although particularly in the Eastern countries) we are seeing a variety of long lost animal’s being reintroduced into their old habitats. This has revived somewhat the debate in Britain as to if animals once at the top of the food chain here, such as the brown bear or wolves, should be reintroduced.

Now, I remember reading up on the topic a few years ago when it was (I think) last brought up at a National Level (rather than for just the Scottish highlands) and I was stringently against the idea for reasons I’ll come on to, and this recent debate hasn’t changed my mind.

The Brown Bear was last seen in Britain probably around 1000 years ago. Despite their occasionally cuddly appearance  there should be no doubts as to how immensely powerful they are in the flesh.

I mean the effort to introduce animals such as the beaver and lynx as well as those such as the bear and the wolf will undoubtedly have positive effects on our natural eco-systems. I was reading research done by Nature England which stated that beavers could reduce the risk of flooding which would be excellent, and also we have a rather large deer problem in Britain which would be helped a lot by introducing creatures such as the Lynx and Wolf who would begin to hunt them (preventing the need to cull herds). On the other hand, the modern landscape of Britain must be taken into account on such an issue; and the general consensus among experts is that we do not have a sustainable environment for these creatures to live in without significant risk to either people or their livelihoods. As much as people may say that highland farming is not important or ‘too small’ to be significant clearly don’t understand that for their new eco-system to work it’s got to build upon what we have now and not what they want to have.

European Gray Wolf
The Wolf; last seen in Britain around the beginning of the 18th Century. Powerful beasts with a pack mentality, close control would need to be kept to avoid groups of them demolishing herds or even people who venture into the lovely British countryside.

Organisations such as argue that these species have considerably more positive than negative effects on our society, our economy, and indeed, on our eco-systems. However, I don’t think the extra £300 (rising from £500 to £800) in income for deer estates has as much influence on anything meaningful to the majority of people as the supporters are suggesting.

I have read a few different articles on the topic, and I find most commentators saying that such animals pose a threat to humans in argument against the supporters of the reintroduction who state that properly educated humans will have no fear from the animals in their natural habitat. However, and I think this is something to be stressed, what about when the animals venture out of their natural habitat? Let’s take an example of the common fox; over the last couple of decades we have seen an explosion in the levels of ‘urbanised’ foxes moving out of their natural homes in the countryside and setting up shop in cities, towns and urban areas. Not only this, but the competition for food has meant foxes being in the news for breaking into houses, stealing food, terrorising people and even attacking humans; most shockingly, the young. Now, I don’t have any expert opinions backing up the idea that given 20 years wolves or even bears may have lost their fear of the urban environment, however in the modern environment with suitable habitats shrinking it means its ever more likely that these creatures could very well move ‘out of the wild and into civilisation’. It may not even be cities, but towns or villages. Situated much closer to their habitats in the countryside and with a much less imposing human presence, as the animals become ever more confident attacks will, I would say, rise dramatically.

The urban fox has developed into just as much a menace to city-goers as to country bumpkins (such as myself!) 

Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly don’t want to see any of these species go extinct, or anything like that, but I most certainly don’t want to see them suffer by being forced into an area too insufficient for them to the point where they are forced into conflict with humans. Because if that does happen, it’s not a fight that’s going to turn out well for the creatures, the supporters of reintroduction or the attitudes of the public towards sustainability and creation/cultivation of clean eco-systems.

Post Script; All images courtesy of Google.