Country: Nature Notes

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The Independent Culture
LAST WEEK I suggested that Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) had been considering re-introducing wolves to the Highlands. This, it turns out, is not so. SNH has successfully re-established sea eagles and red kites, and is studying the possibility of beavers; but the notion of bringing back the wolf has largely been championed by a single enthusiast, the zoologist Dr Roger Panaman.

For centuries wolves were the scourge of livestock in the Highlands, and generous bounties were offered to anybody who killed them. The last native specimen is thought to have been exterminated in 1743. Today wolves survive in eastern Europe, as well as in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and they have recently made a come-back in Germany and southern France. European wolves are smaller than Alsatian dogs, weighing about 55lb, against an average 75lb for an Alsatian, and they are mainly carnivorous.

In advancing his case, Dr Panaman can cite the European Union's Habitat and Species Directive of 1992, which charged Britain with the task of bringing back extinct native wildlife; but he has now abandoned his plans for establishing a sanctuary near Aviemore, from which the inmates would eventually be released. SNH believes that any such scheme is totally unrealistic. As a spokesman put it, "Wolves for the Highlands are a great idea, provided you live in Epping Forest".