Wolf reintroduction to Scotland: Public attitudes and consequences for red deer management

Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1066 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.05). 05/2007; 274(1612):995-1002. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2006.0369
Source: PubMed


Reintroductions are important tools for the conservation of individual species, but recently more attention has been paid to the restoration of ecosystem function, and to the importance of carrying out a full risk assessment prior to any reintroduction programme. In much of the Highlands of Scotland, wolves (Canis lupus) were eradicated by 1769, but there are currently proposals for them to be reintroduced. Their main wild prey if reintroduced would be red deer (Cervus elaphus). Red deer are themselves a contentious component of the Scottish landscape. They support a trophy hunting industry but are thought to be close to carrying capacity, and are believed to have a considerable economic and ecological impact. High deer densities hamper attempts to reforest, reduce bird densities and compete with livestock for grazing. Here, we examine the probable consequences for the red deer population of reintroducing wolves into the Scottish Highlands using a structured Markov predator-prey model. Our simulations suggest that reintroducing wolves is likely to generate conservation benefits by lowering deer densities. It would also free deer estates from the financial burden of costly hind culls, which are required in order to achieve the Deer Commission for Scotland's target deer densities. However, a reintroduced wolf population would also carry costs, particularly through increased livestock mortality. We investigated perceptions of the costs and benefits of wolf reintroductions among rural and urban communities in Scotland and found that the public are generally positive to the idea. Farmers hold more negative attitudes, but far less negative than the organizations that represent them.

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Available from: Tim Coulson, Apr 29, 2015
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    • "To make accurate predictions of future population growth, quantitative population models should accurately reflect biological processes of the species being modeled. Individualbased models (IBM) were previously used to model wolf population dynamics (Vucetich et al. 1997, Haight et al. 1998, Nilsen et al. 2007, Bull et al. 2009) because they can most accurately represent the unique social and breeding structure of wolf populations. We modified an IBM developed to assess effects of management on wolf populations in Norway (Bull et al. 2009) to meet our needs to assess population viability of wolves in Oregon. "
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    DESCRIPTION: Technical report to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission describing results from an individual-based population model used to assess population viability of wolves in Oregon.
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    • "The focus on species and ecosystem benefits is recognized by the most recent guidelines for reintroduction (stating that any conservation translocation, which includes reintroduction, must be intended to yield a conservation benefit at the population, species or ecosystem level; IUCN, 2013). Together with this general 'ecological' objective, it is increasingly recognized that social, cultural or economic dynamics can also be primary motivations for reintroduction efforts, or at the very least represent key constraints to their success (Wilson, 1997; McKinstry & Anderson, 1999; Nilsen et al., 2007; Soorae, 2013). Making clear statements about such a variety of objectives, carefully considering their relative importance , can already improve the rational planning and evaluation of decision problems (Keeney, 2004). "
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    ABSTRACT: Reintroductions and other conservation translocations are an important but often controversial form of wildlife management. Some authors have suggested the low success rates may reflect poor planning and decision-making. In this study, we used examples of herpetofaunal reintroductions, published in four volumes of the IUCN's Reintroduction Specialist Group Global Perspectives in Reintroduction Biology, to identify the objectives set by reintroduction practitioners, the indicators of success they choose and the types of difficulties they encounter. We found objectives focused on target species, but also on broader ecological objectives, such as ecosystem restoration, and social and economic aims. Practitioners reported high success rates: however, these referred to a mixture of general objectives, reflecting the fundamental aims of programmes, and technical aspects, such as developing husbandry protocols, that are important only as stepping stones for broader objectives. In some cases, important objectives were not assigned relevant indicators, thus making assessment impossible. Non-biological aspects such as funding dynamics were the most important source of difficulties; however, they were not always openly recognized by assigning relevant objectives and indicators. We argue that the adoption of a more structured approach to decision-making could help in addressing all these issues. In particular, we recommend that where possible, managers should clearly state all relevant objectives and constraints, and distinguish their respective relevance and importance. If such elements are not clearly defined a priori, planning and assessing reintroductions can become difficult or even impossible, increasing the risk of inefficient use of resources.
    Animal Conservation 12/2014; 17(S1). DOI:10.1111/acv.12146 · 2.85 Impact Factor
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    • "Wildlife conservation is both scientific and sociopolitical, and conservation programs are often best achieved with the cooperation of local people (Nilsen et al., 2007). Public acceptance is critical for the successful implementation of wildlife-related policies and actions, and political backlash is likely if such decisions are made in the absence of citizen support (Bruskotter, Schmidt, & Teel, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: The reintroduction of mammalian predators often has been met with controversy among citizens near reintroduction sites primarily because of concern for predation of livestock, pets, and game species. The river otter (Lontra canadensis) is an example of a predator widely reintroduced in the United States that has in some cases been negatively depicted in the media because of its predatory habits (i.e., fish eating). The reintroduction of river otters in Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois was followed by negative media messages pertaining to otters preying on fish. In contrast, the reintroduction of river otters in Pennsylvania (PA) was accompanied by positive media portrayals and overwhelming public support. This opinion piece reviews factors that likely contributed to public acceptance of river otter reintroduction in PA, emphasizing the importance of applying social science theories and methodologies as a basis for determining and accurately depicting public attitudes toward the reintroduction of mammalian predators.
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