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

University of Oslo, Kristiania (historical), 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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    • "Moreover, for many reintroduction attempts, there is often only one chance to " get it right " and failure can mean that years or even decades may pass before new opportunities or sufficient biological and financial resources again become available (Gadsby, 2002; USFWS, 2009a, 2009b; ICMBio, 2012). Further, many reintroductions are also highly publicized (Cade, Tordoff, & Barclay, 2000; Parker, 2008; Ruiz-Miranda et al., 2010) or controversial (Nilsen et al., 2003; Ragyov, Dixon, & Kowalczyk, 2010; Wronski, Sandouka, & Butynski, 2011), and failures of such efforts may erode both public and institutional confidence in reintroduction practitioners and their respective organizations. Reintroduction planning and implementation errors can also result in direct human conflicts and political controversy (Bangs & Smith, 2008; Jahdmadi, Al- Mahdoury, & Al Amri, 2011; Kaczensky et al., 2011), legal challenges (Davison, 2001; Rees, 2001; Kock, Andanje, & Butynski, 2010), and even loss of human life (Whyte, Conway, & Cooper, 2010). "
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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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    • "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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