To Control Red Deer Populations, A Call to Reintroduce Wolves to Scotland

A Gray wolf (Canis lupus).

A Gray wolf (Canis lupus).

A team of European scientists says that the best way to bring back gray wolves to the Scottish Highlands is to establish expansive, fenced reserves in which the wolves can cull abundant populations of red deer, which are degrading the landscape through over-grazing.

Reporting in the journal Restoration Ecology, the scientists said that the use of large fenced reserves would help revive the landscape of the Highlands and would be a boon for tourism, while also largely keeping the wolves from preying upon sheep and other livestock. The team said that a barrier capable of retaining 75 percent of the wolves within a fenced reserve would help control red deer populations, which have degraded an estimated one-third of native woodlands in the Highlands.

“A fenced reserve in Scotland could be a fantastic opportunity to return large predators to Britain, ecologically restore a large part of the Scottish Highlands, and promote tourism,” said University of Sussex biologist Christopher Sandom, a co-author of the study.

Another co-author, David McDonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, added, “Scotland can lead Europe in thinking about how conservation, large fenced reserves, and tourism can reframe rural economies.”