The prospect of Highland wolves has been put on hold. Photo: Frank Wouters CC-BY-2.0

The prospect of Highland wolves has been put on hold. Photo: Frank Wouters [CC-2.0]

The prospect of wolves roaming the Scottish glens receded this week with the news that a controversial estate has put on hold plans to reintroduce the animals.

Alladale, in the North-East Highlands, served notice in December last year of its intention to apply for a zoo licence for, among other wildlife, three European wolves.

But owner Paul Lister, whose father founded the MFI furniture company that ceased trading last year, admitted that the 9,300ha  (23,000-acre) estate near Ardgay, on the Sutherland-Easter Ross boundary, is too small to support the wolves.

However, he said the long-term goal of the Alladale Wilderness Reserve is to see wolves reintroduced to the Highlands, possibly by co-operating with neighbouring estates or by buying more land.

He told the Scotsman newspaper: “I don’t think we will ever see wolves running around without fences or without some kind of control. There is way too much livestock, there are way too many people’s pets, and there is way too much fear.”

And therein lies the problem. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has long objected to the high, electrified fences necessary to keep the animals enclosed. They are, says MCofS chief officer David Gibson, a contravention of the right-to-roam requirements of Scottish law. Mr Gibson said earlier this year: “The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 clearly provides access-takers with the right to cross areas of wild land and this right may be compromised by the actions of the Alladale Estate.”

Highland Council’s own access officer Matt Dent recommended refusal of the renewal of a licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, but the licensing committee granted permission to keep wild boar and elk.

Hillwalkers and climbers have complained that the fencing at the site restricts their access to the countryside, including the 846m (2,772ft) corbett Càrn Bàn.

But in his Scotsman interview, Mr Lister made the case for charging visitors to the estate, saying: “It is a great shame if the 300 or so people who currently walk over Alladale every year now aren’t prepared to compromise and to allow possibly 20,000 or 30,000 people in a structured fashion to come into the area on an annual basis to see amazing wildlife and in the process support 100 jobs.

“Is that group of people going to stop progress being made in not only scientific but also economic opportunities?”

And, while the wolves may not make an appearance in the near future, the boar and elk – along with their fence – look set to stay. Mr Lister also intends to introduce a breeding programme for wildcats and bring in red squirrels from elsewhere in Scotland.

The prospect of wolves roaming the Scottish glens receded this week with the news that a controversial estate has put on hold plans to reintroduce the animals.

Alladale, in the North-East Highlands, served notice in December last year of its intention to apply for a zoo licence for, among other wildlife, three European wolves.

But owner Paul Lister, whose father founded the MFI furniture company that ceased trading last year, admitted that the 9,300ha  (23,000-acre) estate near Ardgay, on the Sutherland-Easter Ross boundary, is too small to support the wolves.

However, he said the long-term goal of the Alladale Wilderness Reserve is to see wolves reintroduced to the Highlands, possibly by co-operating with neighbouring estates or by buying more land.

He told the Scotsman newspaper: “I don’t think we will ever see wolves running around without fences or without some kind of control. There is way too much livestock, there are way too many people’s pets, and there is way too much fear.”

And therein lies the problem. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has long objected to the high, electrified fences necessary to keep the animals enclosed. They are, says MCofS chief officer David Gibson, a contravention of the right-to-roam requirements of Scottish law. Mr Gibson said earlier this year: “The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 clearly provides access-takers with the right to cross areas of wild land and this right may be compromised by the actions of the Alladale Estate.”

Highland Council’s own access officer Matt Dent recommended refusal of the renewal of a licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, but the licensing committee granted permission to keep wild boar and elk.

Hillwalkers and climbers have complained that the fencing at the site restricts their access to the countryside, including the 846m (2,772ft) corbett Càrn Bàn.

But in his Scotsman interview, Mr Lister made the case for charging visitors to the estate, saying: “It is a great shame if the 300 or so people who currently walk over Alladale every year now aren’t prepared to compromise and to allow possibly 20,000 or 30,000 people in a structured fashion to come into the area on an annual basis to see amazing wildlife and in the process support 100 jobs.

“Is that group of people going to stop progress being made in not only scientific but also economic opportunities?”

And, while the wolves may not make an appearance in the near future, the boar and elk – along with their fence – look set to stay. Mr Lister also intends to introduce a breeding programme for wildcats and bring in red squirrels from elsewhere in Scotland.

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