Farm leaders fear an escaped lynx may have struck, killing seven sheep a week after it went missing from a wildlife park in Ceredigion.
Horrified sheep farmer Owen Jenkins found seven of his sheep dead and a number of others traumatised after spotting the lynx lurking near his flock on Wednesday (1 November).
The Eurasian lynx, named Lilleth, escaped from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom, in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion a week ago. Police warned livestock farmers to stay vigilant amid concerns the animal could attack their animals.
Warning: Article contains a photo of dead sheep some readers may find distressing
The National Sheep Association (NSA) said the killings bear all the hallmarks of a lynx attack.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said it was deeply concerning as the lynx is the same species proposed by the Lynx UK Trust in its application to Natural England to “rewild” medium-sized wild cats at Kielder Forest, in Northumberland.
“There cannot be a clearer warning of the damage lynx will do if they are released into the wild,” said Mr Stocker.
“Lynx UK Trust continue to assure us that lynx, on average, will take just 0.4 sheep annually. A fact which is simply unbelievable given the damage just one has inflicted after several days of roaming free.
“This incident also backs up what we are hearing from a number of sheep farmers in Scandanavia and other parts of Europe who tell us of high losses they’ve experienced from individual lynx that develop the behavioral characteristic of an opportunistic hunter.”
Mr Stocker expressed his sympathy to the farmer involved, but said he should be commended for supporting zoo owners in their ongoing bid to recapture the animal.
“The risk lynx pose to sheep, and the subsequent anxiety which would be suffered by sheep farmers if they were released is clear, but NSA’s concerns reach far wider than that,” said Mr Stocker.
“Through their normal work, sheep farmers are continually supporting wildlife and grassland ecology and this valuable activity could be undermined if a lynx release were to go ahead.”
The NSA understands a post-mortem examination carried out by Welsh government officials determined the cause of death to one sheep was bite marks to the neck and subsequent internal bleeding.
Two sheep were partly eaten, while the remaining five appeared to be killed purely out of instinct, just as a domestic cat might do with prey such as mice, it added.
Farmers Weekly has contacted the Welsh government and the Lynx UK Trust to request a comment.
More follows soon.