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Sheffield 99 Friday, 17 September, 1999, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Call for return of Scottish wolves
wolf
But how safe would sheep flocks be?
A zoologist has called for the re-introduction of wolves into the highlands of Scotland to prevent a population explosion of red deer.

Festival of Science
Dr Martyn Gorman, senior lecturer in zoology at Aberdeen University and vice chairman of the UK Mammal Society, said the wolf, which once numbered several thousand throughout the British Isles, could help solve a big environmental problem.

The wolf┐s natural prey is the red deer, famously portrayed as the Monarch of the Glen. The deer's numbers are growing alarmingly despite an increase in culling.

An estimated 350,000 red deer now inhabit the Highlands where they have inflicted enormous damage to natural and commercial forests by eating young tree shoots.

Scottish National Heritage has considered re-establishing carefully controlled colonies of wolves, but shelved the idea following an outcry from sheep farmers.

But Dr Martyn Gorman said the introduction of wolves represented the sensible solution.

"There are probably now more red deer in Scotland than there have ever been," he told the British Association┐s Festival of Science in Sheffield, UK.

"When you have more than five to 20 deer per square kilometre there are no young trees. My own feeling is that we most certainly should reintroduce the wolf.

"You can hardly expect other countries to keep dangerous animals such as tigers when we're unable or unwilling to suffer the small problems of having wolves in the Highlands."

Dr Gorman has been using GPS satellite tracking to monitor the movement of the deer. He aims to find out if a large cull on one estate would result in the subsequent inward migration of deer from neighbouring estates. This would worry estate owners who derive income from stag hunting and could lose their prize animals.

Another satellite tracking system is also keeping an eye on an endangered species of wild dogs in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. There are only 5,000 of the dogs left and Dr Gorman discovered that one of the reasons is that the dogs are driven into poor habitats, devoid of prey, by lions.

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07 Jul 99 | Science/Nature
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