Lynx© Rex

Plans to release wild lynx into the British countryside have encountered stiff opposition from sheep farmers.

The Lynx UK Trust conservation charity wants to reintroduce the animal into three areas of Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Suffolk.

It is in the process of submitting an official application for permission to do so to Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage.

But the National Sheep Association has voiced its opposition to the scheme.

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Reintroducing lynx after more than 1,300 years of extinction would pose a real threat to British livestock, said the association.

Even trial work with the wild cat would lead to predation of livestock, in particular, ewes and lambs, it warned.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker has written to Natural England head James Cross and Defra minister Lord De Mauley over the issue.

Mr Stocker said: “Our primary concern is that the lynx will threaten livelihoods and businesses within the farming industry. Ewes and lambs would be much easier prey than deer because they can’t get away so quickly.

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He added: “We were heartened to receive a speedy response from Natural England, assuring us that, if and when it receives an application from the Lynx UK Trust, it will consult ‘all relevant parties’ and consider the socio-economic impacts of the reintroduction, as well as impacts on the environment and the animals themselves.

“This is vitally important, as the project will disrupt vulnerable ecosystems and challenge the viability of sheep farms. This will, in turn, have a damaging impact on farmers’ livelihoods and businesses if the lynx prey on sheep.”

Mr Stocker said believed that the charity hadn’t considered the long-term implications of the project.

“It’s all very well to talk about the release of six or eight lynx, but how do you control them in the years to come when numbers get to a point where they threaten sheep in the area?”