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: 5.29). 05/2007; 274(1612):995-1002. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2006.0369
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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    • "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 · 2.52 Impact Factor
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    • "Yet, wolves often present problems such as economic losses to farmers (Muhly and Musiani 2009), competition for prey (Treves et al. 2013), and perceived risks to humans and pets (Bisi et al. 2007; Houston et al. 2010; Mech 1995). While the majority of the general public in some western nations tends to accept the return of the wolf (Nilsen et al. 2007; Williams et al. 2002), those with direct experience are more inclined to oppose (Enck and Brown 2002; Ericsson and Heberlein 2003; Karlsson and Sjöström 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Wolf populations have increased in Western Europe and North America. Lethal control of problem wolves is controversial and support varies among stakeholder groups. Knowing why people support or oppose policies can assist managers in dealing with the public. We examined the influence of emotions toward wolves on the acceptability of lethal wolf control. Two perspectives were used to classify emotions. The discrete perspective distinguishes qualitatively different emotions (e.g., fear, joy). The dimensional perspective differentiates emotions on the basis of valence and arousal. We conducted a survey among Dutch (n = 369) and Canadian (n = 208) university students. The independent variables were discrete emotions toward wolves (joy, fear, surprise, anger, disgust, sadness, interest) as well as valence and arousal. The dependent variables were acceptability of lethal control of wolves in three situations that reflect different problem levels (wolves present, wolves kill sheep, wolves kill human). Emotional dispositions toward wolves predicted up to 20 % of the variance of acceptability of lethal control. Disgust in both samples and joy in the Dutch sample were the best predictors. The predictive potential of fear was smaller and confined to two scenarios in the Dutch sample. Discrete emotions predicted acceptability better than valence and arousal. Emotions beyond fear should be considered in wildlife decision-making.
    European Journal of Wildlife Research 05/2014; DOI:10.1007/s10344-014-0823-2 · 1.21 Impact Factor
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    • "In some cases, the issue became extremely controversial, with different society groups arguing in opposite ways, as was the case of the lynx reintroduction in Switzerland (Breitenmoser, 1998), the wolf in Scotland (Nilsen et al., 2007) or the wolf in Norway (Bjerke, Reitan & Kellert, 1998), only to give a few examples. Generally, rural populations are more sceptical about the reintroductions, because they see them as an economic threat; instead, urban people regard them as a compensatory measure for the species eradicated by human action. "
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    ABSTRACT: The Portuguese curriculum includes the issue of endangered species but it omits the reintroductions of endangered or already extinct species. Therefore, this study aimed to verify and compare the position of 435 students, attending the 4 th (n1=210, age average 8,8) and the 9 th year (n2=225, age average 14,3) of schooling, about the hypothetical reintroduction of three emblematic mammals from the Iberian fauna in Portugal: the wild goat, the bear and the lynx, which has a very different situation in this country. To this end, a questionnaire was applied, also demanding the reasons of their choice. The students of both groups supported the reintroductions with percentages that were very similar, but the reasons for their support had a different frequency. In a very general way, the older students gave more personal and ecological arguments and the younger produced more arguments centred on the animals and on the human being. However, the incidence of ecological arguments was lower than expected, due to the fact that students from the 9 th have approached throughout schooling, more precisely at the 3 rd , 5 th and 8 th years, several ecological issues. Some misconceptions about the utility of the animals for humans, especially in the case of the wild goat, and their dangerousness, in the case of the bear and lynx, were also detected. Because this issue has proved to be very controversial in countries that have already started a reintroduction policy of some species of their fauna, we support its discussion during schooling, in Science Education and Environmental Education, for a better understanding of the reasons for and against the reintroductions that may allow reducing the importance of empathy for an animal as the most important one.
    ESERA 2013 Conference; 01/2014