Exploring the value of wolves (Canis lupus) in landscape-scale fenced reserves for ecological restoration in the Scottish Highlands
Sandom C., Bull J., Canney S., Macdonald DW.
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012. All rights reserved. Here we explore the ecological feasibility of constructing a landscape-scale fenced reserve in the Scottish Highlands, to contain a wolf Canis lupus population for the purpose of promoting ecological restoration. The prospect of constructing such a reserve raises numerous issues, and here we describe a theoretical investigation into the specific case of wolves in the Highlands, to determine whether the concept warrants further examination. We attempt to answer the following questions: How big must a fenced reserve, ecologically suitable for large predators, be? Is there sufficient space in the Highlands? Will wolves regulate red deer Cervus elaphus numbers? And how do we assess land suitability? Our results indicate that: an area of at least 600 km2would be preferable but that this could potentially sustain a functional wolf population; that there is sufficient space in the Scottish Highlands; that the wolf population has the potential to regulate the deer population; and, that although there are numerous potentially contentious issues to overcome, the land may be suitable for such a reserve. We conclude that, from an ecological perspective, the release of wolves to a fenced reserve is potentially feasible, and our preliminary results support further exploration of this concept.