CORVALLIS, Ore. Researchers are proposing in a new report that a major experiment be conducted to reintroduce wolves to a test site in the Scottish Highlands, to help control the populations and behavior of red deer that in the past 250 years have changed the whole nature of large ecosystems.
The proposal is modeled after research done in the United States, at Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere, which has demonstrated that the absence of large predators such as wolves and cougars has allowed deer, elk and other animals to badly overgraze lands and ravish entire terrestrial ecosystems.
If successful, the experiment might demonstrate the same ecosystem recovery is possible in Scotland that has been accomplished in some parts of the U.S. where wolves have been brought back.
"Wolves were last found in Scotland more than 250 years ago, and as a result it's likely that very few natural areas now bear much resemblance to their native conditions," said William Ripple, a professor of forest ecosystems and society at Oregon State University, and one of the world's leading experts in the study of the interaction of grazing ungulates and large predators.
"There's an increasing awareness that the loss of large predators is a global issue, both marine and terrestrial," Ripple said. "The effects ultimately extend to forests, grasslands, streams, fisheries and wildlife. We see the same kinds of impacts time after time."
In what has been called restoring "landscapes of fear," scientists point not just to the effect of large predators in helping to control the populations of grazing animals, but also their behavior. The threat of predation and attack can fundamentally change the movement and activities of grazing animals 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in ways that such approaches as human hunting fail to do.
The native red deer in Scotland essentially the same animal as elk in the United States have not faced pred
|Contact: William Ripple|
Oregon State University