THE lynx effect could be the answer to deer overpopulation in Scotland, say experts.
The cats naturally hunt deer in the wild and would be a good alternative to culling by marksmen, claim conservationists.
Lynx died out in the wilds of Scotland thousands of years ago.
Reintroducing Lynx would make more sense than bringing back wolves because the cats have never been known to attack humans, said Alan Watson Featherstone.
Mr Featherstone, executive director of Trees For Life, said that the loss of native animals such as lynx and wolves mean that deer now have no natural predators, and their population numbers are growing.
He said that lynx would be a better option because wolves have too much of a “public image problem”.
“Wolves have always had a very bad public image, from Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs to modern werewolf Hollywood films,” he said.
“People think they’re dangerous although they’re really not.
“The lynx would perform a similar function but does not have the same cultural stigma as the wolves. Top predators perform a vital part of the system and their absence in Scotland means a lack of regulation for natural prey.”
Lynx are still present in many northern and eastern countries in Europe, and in some Southern European countries. It is a specialist predator of roe deer, and there are no records in Europe of anyone ever being attacked by a lynx.
The conservationist spoke out ahead of a lecture due to take place in Edinburgh last night about “rewilding” Scotland, with particular focus on the Highlands.
Rewilding is the concept of the large-scale restoration of damaged natural ecosystems.
According to Mr Watson Featherstone, red squirrels and wood ants should also be more widespread in the north.
Work will also have to be done to allow forests to return to a more natural state under the rewilding vision.
The lynx is thought to have died out in Scotland about 4,000 years ago.
The animals – which can grow up to 1.3m and weigh up to 40kg – naturally hunt roe deer.
Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash is spent annually culling deer, which cause enormous damage to trees. They are also overgraze on grassland and cause further damage by trampling.
There are up to 350,000 roe deer in Scotland at present.
In 2009 – 2010 the cost of forest protection in Scotland ran to £10.5m.