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« Rewilding envisioning - Josh 283 | Main | Hoorah for the GWPF »

Rewilding the Highlands

There was an interesting programme, which I tuned into by mistake at 6.30am this morning on BBC Radio Scotland (not currently available on iPLayer) on the benefits of progressing the “rewilding” of areas of the Highlands – one of George Monbiot’s favourite hobbyhorses.

A pro-weighted opinion on the benefits was put forward by Roy Dennis of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife while a briefer counter-argument came from a representative of the Ramblers’ Association. As this proposal would include the reintroduction of wolves it would probably involve fencing off at least 50,000 acres of countryside, reducing the “right to roam” which currently exists in Scotland and necessarily including the possibility of animal escapes through or over the electric fence. Dennis wanted government backing for the move, considering that reintroduction was more important than access. The more libertarian opinions of the Ramblers’ representative suggested that this should not happen without public consultation and that the promotion of such moves by the press and media risked putting private interests over the public rights. 

Butterflies, maybe…. wolves, no? TM

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Reader Comments (46)

These plonkers view the entire world as their own zoo.

Jul 19, 2014 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Perhaps the electric fences could be powered by the l;coal windmills?

Jul 19, 2014 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Or even the local windmills.

Jul 19, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Why stop at wolves? Why not bears and lions as well!

Just because a few members of the public might be eaten is hardly an argument for not doing it. They are "improving" the countryside.

Zealots like George Monbiot find democracy an inconvenience. How could the public know what's good for them! Only Georgie boy and his green mates know that!

Jul 19, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

I can't see what could possibly go wrong with introducing a large predator into an area with large and plentiful prey (red deer).

It is not as if each female wolf could produce 6 pups every year.

Jul 19, 2014 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Sweden has already done this.

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy Scrase

The wolves are less dangerous than what Monbiot and other enviro-extremists want to do. Pol Pot would have found Monbiot a useful fellow and his writing very helpful, I think.

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

We need to fence the Scots to ensure the safety of tourists as they walk over the Scottish countryside.

Perhaps we could also create special feeding points where Scottish families, dressed in traditional attire of plaids, kilts, trews etc., can be tossed scraps of Haggis, tatties and bashed neeps, with special gravy dispensers.

Then for the alpha males, a dram or two of distilled beer after which they can toss trees into the air then bash each other to a bloody pulp with large swords, hammers etc.

All good clean family fun.......

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

Before embarking on this you should see the havoc caused in the Forest of Dean by released wild boar. The Beechenhurst site is a mess.

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea


Perhaps the wolves are there to guard the outsides of the fences in order to halt the scots escaping!

Good thinking George Monbiot

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Here in France there would be wolf on the menu by the end of week one. Loup a la Monbiot in a green sauce perhaps.

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Wolves and bears are natural predators of the badger, apparently. This lunatic idea should be taken up forthwith, and the perpetrators immediately prosecuted for exposing badgers to danger.

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterVictoria Sponge

Why keep out Ramblers? Yellowstone in Wyoming is unfenced, and has grizzly bears and wolves and American ramblers are allowed free access. OK there might be an attack but it is considered your fault not the animal's. (And the loss of a Rambler in the UK might be a bonus) sarc off.

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

John Marshall In the USA you can carry a .375 magnum. Will they allow Scottish Ramblers to protect themselves ?

Jul 19, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

There is a serious lack of top predators in Britain, making any pretence at a natural ecosystem a farce, as deer and badger numbers are unchecked. The reintroduction of lynx, which are shy nocturnal and too small to be tempted to snack on humans humans except unattended toddlers, would be a more sensible starting point.

Jul 19, 2014 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterLjh

By 'rewilding' - does that include 'de-industrialising' the Highlands - by removing the wind turbines..?

Oh - I thought not - a step too far...

Jul 19, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Do these f'tards never learn? They place a protected species notice on badgers. Badger numbers increase. Hedgehog numbers decrease. Badgers eat hedgehogs, but the decline is automatically attributed to Global Warming! They place a protected species notice on Sparrowhawks. Sparrowhawk numbers increase. Sparrow numbers & those of other small birds decrease. Sparrowhawks eat Sparrows (the clue is in the title!) & other small birds, but the decline is utomaticallly attributed to Global Warming! On that score alone they can keep the AGW meme going by observing species number depletions within the food chain!!! Sheesh!

Jul 19, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Monbiot is a self confessed anarcho primitivist. The philosophy that literally believes agriculture (control of nature) is the root of all evil. A view shared with a certain German politician who hated the Jewish Book of Genesis.

He hates sheep, partly because they are immigrants (that is a clue to his ecofascist roots)

I revere Wordsworth the poet, but not his view of farming as a benign force. The Lakes fells don't need world heritage status – just fewer sheep

Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification,coercion, and alienation. Anarcho-primitivists advocate a return to non-"civilized" ways of life through deindustrialisation, abolition of the division of labour or specialization, and abandonment of large-scale organization technologies.

Monbiot and the ecofascists

Jul 19, 2014 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

It'll need a lot more than a bit of 're-wilding' to make up for the millions of trees lost to make-way for wind turbines!

Jul 19, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterM. Stevens

My sister-in-law in West Vancouver has been known to disturb a bear in her garage! Correct practice is to wear a bell (you not the bear) which tends to make them run away, shy creatures that they are. Unlike the cougars apparently. Meet one of those and pray that it has recently eaten.
I am a bit inclined to side with Monbiot on the principle of this though with reservations. The best control is a natural predator which is why the ban on hunting foxes with dogs makes absolutely no sense from a pest control point of view (the fact that country dwellers turned it into a sport is irrelevant — the comparison with bear baiting or cock fighting is ludicrously ignorant. Or political.)

HOWEVER ... the corollary of this is the acceptance that in certain cases the predator is Man. Boar are starting to invade the outskirts of Marseille because hunting is banned in the local nature reserve and the animals haven't been culled for three years. In Burgundy (this part at least) hunters have an allocation of animals that they are allowed to shoot each year based on (a) the current state of the species — this will be the first year for three years that pheasant will be on the menu, and (b) the number of genuine pests (fox, crow, coypu, blackbirds when the sunflower seeds are ripening!) that they have got rid of.

Wolves have re-established themselves in the Jura which makes us next in line but even there you can go a lifetime without seeing one since they tend to avoid human contact (wise creatures) and only attack if cornered or defending pups which almost any animal or bird will do.
Whether going out of your way to re-introduce species that have been hunted to death is debatable but on the basis of what I said above, if you want to control the badger/fox/deer population then introducing a natural predator makes sense.

Unfortunately the average townie thinks badgers and foxes are cuddly — never having tried to cuddle one! — and all deer are Bambi. The damage deer can do to newly planted forest (which the townie also loves because it is "natural" and "green" and he's right about that) has to be seen to be believed, as several of the Scottish posters on this site could probably confirm.

Please don't get me started on the other townie obsession, the right to wander about on other people's property just because they feel like it.

Jul 19, 2014 at 1:51 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Jul 19, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Andy Scrase
Sweden has already done this.

As I understand it; the reasoning behind the reintroduction of wolves here in Sweden is due to the fact that ours are inbred. The plan has been to cull the wolves and introduce wolves from continental Europe to enrich the gene pool & build up a healthy wolf population to some predetermined level. The eco-nuts have of course been going ape every time the cull comes around. Personally, I think the inbred wolves should be live trapped and released in and about Stockholm.

Jul 19, 2014 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

Mike Jackson

Wolves might be smart but they're not smart enough to spend their time hunting deer and badgers when there are easy birds, sheep or cattle available. If we can't keep birds of prey protected from farmers then the wolves wouldn't last a week. If you do protect the wolves then there would be little to stop them flourishing. It's not like they'd experience Yellowstone or even European style winters. Sheep numbers would plummet. Land would go ungrazed and turn back to scrub, reeds, bracken and finally boggy forests. There would be a continuous struggle to stop dogs inter breeding and any resultant aimals might have the continuous fertility of domestic dogs and maybe even a lack of fear of humans. The growing groups of wolves would not be satisfied staying within their fences and head south.

The UK isn't the wild anymore and frankly we like it that way.

Jul 19, 2014 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Paul in Sweden

That is so selfish. Islington is crying out for wolves. It would certainly make Waitrose more exciting.

Jul 19, 2014 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

What about a few fairies as well 'cos these guys are away with them!

I've got a few spare somewhere


Jul 19, 2014 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom O'Connor

Wolves in the Highlands? The midges will get em!

Jul 19, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Monbat and his rewilding , most green want us to return to some mythic 16th centenary rural 'idle'* , Monbat wants to return us to hunter gathers because that was the last time the countryside was anything like he want it to be .
[*idyll? TM]

Jul 19, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

I think there is a need to look at the bigger picture here.
This reeks of Agenda 21 inspired policy.

Jul 19, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

I did say the idea of re-introducing species was "debatable"!
As you say, the UK has moved on from the wilderness it was a few thousand years ago and we rather like it the way it is. Just as long as we remember — and ensure that our eco-warriors remember — that the British countryside has been managed in one way or another for centuries and that, while using natural predators makes sense in principle, there are other considerations and that everything we do to keep the environment what we call "natural" and is in fact nothing of the sort ends up in a series of compromises.
Paterson was criticised the other day by one of these wet-behind-the-ears green activists for suggesting that destroying ancient woodland (as is likely to happen if HS2 ever comes to fruition) wasn't the most heinous crime on earth (or something to that effect). Paterson was actually suggesting planting 100 trees for every one cut down but evidently the ancient-ness of the forest is what is important.
So presumably HS2 runs from London to the middle of Oxfordshire and then from Warwickshire into Birmingham and the bit inbetween is accessible only by horse and cart. The fact that what Paterson was mooting was probably the greatest re-afforestation programme this country has ever seen cut no ice.
In all likelihood the UK has gone too far down the road to sub-ruralia for any re-wilding to be practicable but let's keep an open mind.

Jul 19, 2014 at 5:13 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Sounds like with the building of fences there is a desire to return to the time when there was 'The King's Woods' but this time around only the Eco-nobility will have access for their 'science' while the peasants are forbidden to trod but can read or view reports on the woods as the Eco-nobility choose to provide them.

Jul 19, 2014 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

The wilding man is an idiot. Insensitive as well because this week the inquest into the kid killed by a Polar Bear took place. Oh but he went to a private school so that is OK. On the beeb.

Last time I looked the wilderness of the highlands looked great, wild deer, open countryside, quiet, clean air, lovely.

Except for the windmills, and of course the stupid pylons put there to connect the windmills so they can collect money, er, sorry, wind.

Jul 19, 2014 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

I think I'll start a campaign to "Free Variola Vera!". This is a small animal which has been persecuted throughout modern times by humanity, and is now on the brink of extinction, with small numbers of individuals clinging onto a precarious existence in government captivity.

Anyone interested?

Jul 19, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

You want smallpox, mate. You can keep it to yourself.
Or rather you can't which is why we were so keen to see the back of it in the first place.
At least you can see the wolf coming.

Jul 19, 2014 at 6:57 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"This lunatic idea should be taken up forthwith, and the perpetrators immediately prosecuted for exposing badgers to danger." --Victoria Sponge

Badgers? We don't need no steenkin' badgers.

"There is a serious lack of top predators in Britain..." --Ljh

There are about 60,000,000 of those animals, last time I checked. Dangerous when cornered, intoxicated, or at a soccer match.

"Wolves in the Highlands? The midges will get em!" --Green Sand

Good 'un, Green!

"Correct practice is to wear a bell (you not the bear) which tends to make them run away, shy creatures that they are." --Mike Jackson

That explains the high numbers of bells discovered in ursine digestive systems recently.

"In the USA you can carry a .375 magnum." --Ross Lea

Awfully hard to get that ammo, though.

Jul 19, 2014 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

There is a serious lack of top predators in Britain,
Jul 19, 2014 at 1:14 PM | Ljh
Not so sure about that. What about Fred the Shred.

Jul 19, 2014 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

@Mike Jackson

...You want smallpox, mate. You can keep it to yourself...

That's a sizeist remark! Why should only the largest of natural creatures enjoy state protection? I feel so offended by that attitude that I think I will need a large lifetime grant to help me recover.....

Jul 19, 2014 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

I rather like the idea of loosing bears, wolves, and tigerous beasties into the highlands without fences. The true spirit of wilding would be lost if there were fences. The thrill of walking out your back door not knowing what danger is lurking in the bushes. Of course it would only be proper to allow all citizens to begin carrying firearms again. I say yea to the wilding. I say yea to the newly refound right to carry.

Go forth my brother Britons!

Jul 19, 2014 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterGregorio

Mechanical wolves would do the trick, perhaps. Solar-powered, so that if they came after you all you would have to do is run into a cave.

Jul 19, 2014 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJon Jermey

Monbiot's father was one of the most powerful and right wing members of the Conservative Party

David Davis

'It should be borne in mind that Monbiot is one of the men in grey suits whose heavy duty might be to hand the party leader a bottle of whisky and a revolver in certain circumstances.'

However, little George discovered something truly momentous that showed him a destiny beyond the stinking jungle of capitalism. He was an aristocrat and he adopted their elitist beliefs. Namely that there are too many peasants.

Descended from the French Ducs de Coutard, they fled their estates outside Tours in the Loire Valley in 1789, when the local peasants, stirred by news of Revolution in Paris, began redistributing fields and occupying chateaux. The family slipped across to England and changed their name from Beaumont to Monbiot to evade revolutionary spies.

Jul 19, 2014 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

In Houston, Texas Coyotes are learning to live in the urban landscape and are self-rewilding the Bayou City. They can move through the city by way of our several hundred miles of mostly small watersheds.
Since there are many golf courses, parks and undeveloped reservoir flood control land in the system, we are getting an interesting uncontrolled experiment in this. I am generally for it, since here we are allowed to trap or kill destructive/dangerous varmints. But there are already fewer feral cats and dogs than I recall in the past. The really big challenge will be when some disease uses the wild critters as a vector and hits pets or people really hard.
as for hogs: Wild hogs/boars are really bad news. They have boomed across Texas since they are not native and breed like crazy with few predators tough enough to take them down. A small family unit of hogs can destroy more than an acre a night
Some places in Texas are talking up the idea of reintroducing mountain lions. Bobcats can take an occasional small baby hog, but at great risk from the sow. It is open season to kill hogs anywhere a land owner will permit it. Hunting hogs is big business. They are foraging into the distant Houston suburbs even now.
So Scotland should be careful about rewilding. You might get what you wish for.

Jul 20, 2014 at 1:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Monbiot has said he wants to create a "Serengeti in the UK."

George Monbiot and the Great Rewilding

Presumably global warming will supply us with an African climate but what will happen to all the bears and wolves then? You don't get many of those in the Serengeti.

Monbiot's ambitions are by no means restricted to the Scottish Highlands. He has plans for replacing sheep (a type of animal he seems to dislike intensely) in Wales.

Boars should replace sheep on the Welsh mountains

But Scotland and Wales are just the start. Monbiot has plans for taking over the whole world!

My manifesto for rewilding the world

"Nature swiftly responds when we stop trying to control it. This is our big chance to reverse man's terrible destructive impact."

Jul 20, 2014 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

The obvious answer is GMO wolves, genetically programmed to eat deer but neither sheep nor humans.

Jul 20, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Steven Poole mocks Monbiot's blatant Nazism.

Is our love of nature writing bourgeois escapism? -

So goes the green version of the English Defence League: sheep aren't natives! They are "a feral invasive species". They don't belong here. "Invasive species," Monbiot complains, "challenge attempts to defend a unique and distinctive fauna and flora" – just as anti-immigration demagogues claim that foreigners will destroy a unique and distinctive British culture. "Certain animals and plants," Monbiot warns us, even "have characteristics that allow them to invade" – what, like Panzers and U-boats? – "and colonise many parts of the world."

Thus each ecosystem is conceived as a little Westphalian nation state, vulnerable to assault by expansionist outsiders. By the 1930s, unfortunately, the most vocal back-to-the-landers were fascists, in Britain and elsewhere: only by protecting and nurturing the national soil, it was argued, could we guarantee the ongoing purity of the national bloodline. (The "invasive species" here were Jews and other undesirable humans.)

Jul 20, 2014 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Why should a few wolves prevent people from roaming? Yes I know, in Sweden where we have both (and are free to roam almost anywhere) a lot of people are terrified of wolves while nobody seems in the least worried by the bears, who are in fact a lot more dangerous.
Personally I’m not worried by either, and even less by lynx. I’ve never even seen a lynx in the wild, since they are extraordinarily shy. Bears are also quite shy, but wolves rather less so. Wolves I have encountered in the wild a few times, and it was not dramatic at all. I’m rather more worried when I run into some of all these !#&-ing wild boars that “the hunting community” has illegally let loose in Sweden.

However, there are only two animals I’m really afraid of: humans and malaria trypanosomes. Almost all human kills by animals are due to those two species.

And by the way – carrying a gun might not be a good idea. There is a saying in Sweden that bears never seem to attack unarmed people. The bears are apparently very sporting or….?

Jul 20, 2014 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

"Presumably global warming will supply us with an African climate but what will happen to all the bears and wolves then? You don't get many of those in the Serengeti."

There are wolves in Africa all the way down to the Senegal river and Ethiopia, and, until exterminated by hunters in the Middle Ages, there were bears in the Atlas Mountains. Large predators as a matter of fact are remarkably indifferent to climate. Just consider the tiger who occurs (occurred) from Bali to Siberia or the cougar from Tierra de Fuego to Alaska.

Jul 20, 2014 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Nice! Greece had wolf protection shoved down its throat a while back. It will be nice to see how others deal with wolf depradations on livestock. No, it is not one or two sheep here and there. It can be a total loss, like 150 sheep killed in a few minutes and left uneaten. I want to see how your farmers face that.

The countermeasure touted by the "ecos" is the use of large native livestock guarding dogs, and there is the problem for ramblers. Wolves and bears avoid humans, dogs are different, they initiate "contact", often painfully.

Jul 31, 2014 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterNik

" John Marshall In the USA you can carry a .375 magnum. Will they allow Scottish Ramblers to protect themselves ? "
Jul 19, 2014 at 1:11 PM | Ross Lea

In Canada no more than a pepper spray is permitted to be carried in the National Parks.
It can be really quite humbling realising you aren't top of the food chain.

Aug 4, 2014 at 11:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe V.

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