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The Probus Club of Stokesley and District  

Minutes of the 366th meeting held at 10.00 in Stokesley Town Hall on Tuesday 17th July 2018:  

Speaker Graham Temby: ‘The Reintroduction of the Lynx into Kielder’

Graham taught Year 6 children in Darlington until he retired in 2008. Since then he has been an Education Officer with the Durham County Badger Group and a police support volunteer.

He talks to pupils about wildlife crime. He also does some talks for the Lynx UK Trust.

The aim of the first stage of the reintroduction of the lynx into the UK is to control numbers ofroe deer in Kielder forest. These have no predators and cause substantial environmental damage. The charity is ready to start work, but is dependent on permission from Natural England. Once this has been granted, 2 males and 4 females from Sweden will be placed into quarantine in the area in cages. Sweden was chosen because there is no rabies there.

The Eurasian lynx is the largest of the lynx family. It has long legs and big paws so that it

can walk in deep snow. Graham showed a video of the animal highlighting its big ears with tufts, its short tail with a black tip and its thick fur. They probably came to this country after the last ice age. They were found from John o’ Groats to Lands End, but it is believed they died out in Britain around 700 AD. The name lynx comes from the Old English word lox. An EU directive requires that native species be reintroduced where this is possible. The discovery of a skull has confirmed that they were native.

Males are typically 18-40 and females 10-20kg. They are between 80 and 130cm long and up to 70cm high at the shoulder. The have a variety of colours and patterns and have tails about 8 inches long. The British lynx is usually grey with a white lightly spotted belly. They breed in February and March, giving birth in May and June. They are born in time for spring and summer and the young must eat enough in that time to survive the winter. Females find a secluded den and line it with feathers before giving birth to 2 or 3 kittens. They first breed at 2-3 years. A female may have up to 20 in captivity and a number in the teens in the wild. Their habitat is rugged forest with plenty of hideouts. They are ambush predators and kill by choking at the throat or suffocating the mouth and nose. They bring down their prey using weight, momentum, agility and claws. The animals are crepuscular - active at dawn and dusk. Territories vary in size from 20 sq. km to 400 depending on the density of prey.

Lynx do not eat sheep, except in Norway, where sheep live in forests. They prey on foxes

and the odd badger cub, but not adult badgers. They may benefit the Scottish wild cat and capercaillie because lynx predate foxes. There will not be an explosion of numbers, because there will not be enough food. In Kielder, roe deer eat crops, damage fences and vehicles and the bark of trees. Deer have destroyed 2/3 of the foliage below head height in the English forest. Following mild winters and the absence of predators, deer numbers have risen sharply. They are involved in about 74000 traffic collisions annually.

Bovine tuberculosis is carried by pigs, sheep, horses, dogs, cats, rats, foxes, stoats, shrews, polecats, mice, voles, squirrels and most species of deer. There is, however, no bTB in North East England, but it can spread among deer when the population density rises.  

Lynx, like most wild animals are dangerous only if threatened. The rule is Leave them Alone.They have a solitary and secretive nature and are no threat to humans. A lynx did attack a man who tried to strangle it! However rabid lynxes have been known to attack humans. It is exceptionally rare for one to predate an agricultural animal. Those released into Kielder will have GPS collars which will carry a sedative that can be injected remotely if they roam. Wildlife tourism is big business. Wolves in Yellowstone national Park brought in $7-10 million per annum. Kielder and the Southern Uplands could support 50 lynx. Scotland could support 450. Aecom consultants suggest that the financial benefit could be as much as £5 million per year.  Graham noted that it is illegal to hunt lynx. They are protected by CITES and the Bern convention. He said that if the experiment in Kielder does not succeed, the lynx will have to be trapped. The GPS collars will enable this to be done easily.