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No Wolves here, please

I’m an enthusiast for reintroduction projects, which is likely to put me in a minority among Shooting Times readers. I don’t mind admitting that I get a thrill whenever I drive along the M40 and see red kites soaring overhead, and I really enjoyed watching the re-established white-tailed eagles during a visit to Mull. I have yet to see a British beaver, but my experiences in North America suggest that bringing back beavers will be a bonus for wetland creation here.

I even sympathise with those who want to bring back lynx, as I am confident that these shy and beautiful cats would fill an important role in helping to control our deer population. However, there is one reintroduction that I am convinced would be a step too far: we should never bring back the grey wolf.

I have been lucky enough to travel in many European countries where wolves can still be found, including Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and Spain. However, despite spending many hours in good wolf habitat, seeing fresh tracks and even hearing a pack howling, it was only last year that I saw my first wild wolf. This was in central Spain, where there is a growing wolf population. It is rising because large areas of land have been abandoned to nature, allowing an increase in both deer and their predators. Wolves have never been exterminated in Spain, despite centuries of persecution. Today they have a growing band of supporters and are protected by law, but they still face many threats, ranging from illegal poisoning to shooting. Not everyone loves the wolf and many still get killed.

In Sweden there are big fines for anyone who kills a wolf. However, though there is a lot of wilderness in Sweden, wolves invariably create problems, as they prefer eating domestic livestock (including reindeer) to catching wild prey. Most ruraldwelling Swedes would rather live in a wolf-free countryside.

The same is true in Norway, where I have heard first-hand accounts of dogs being killed by wolves as the latter won’t tolerate dogs in their territories. As a result, most country dwellers hate wolves and mistrust urban-based conservationists who insist that living alongside wolves is easy.

In Britain, we have far less wild land than those European countries that still have wolves. There would be nowhere for the packs to go without them coming across domestic stock. If we could have wolves trained only to kill deer that would be fine, but what wolf is going to want to dine on a tough old hind when lamb is also on the menu? Releasing wolves into the Highlands would be a disaster for the wolves, which would inevitably end up having to be shot. It would be an equally disastrous public relations move by the conservationists, as the wolves would be certain to lose them a lot of friends. So I’m a confirmed NWIMBY — no wolves in my back yard.

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At that time, almost two-thirds of those who responded to the debate supported my proposal and I am certain that many more will now agree with me in the light of recent developments.

Let us take the lead on this issue and start a vigorous campaign to legitimise the sport of shooting woodpigeon by its inclusion on the quarry
list. As the saying goes, “wake up and smell the coffee” and heed what Natural England is saying.

Have your say: if you have a view on a current news topic, send it, in no more than 500 words, to [email protected].