Ross McAulay, 27, runs a farm near the release site at Keilder Forest in Northumberland.
He said: “Lynx have not been wild in the UK for over 1,300 years. They are about as native as the dinosaurs were, and they were hunted because they attacked livestock. It will be catastrophic for sheep farming.”
Mr McAulay, the third generation of his family on 550-acre Wauchope Farm in Roxburghshire, has 600 sheep.
The Lynx Trust UK wants to release four females and two males into the wild for a five-year trial period, monitoring them with satellite collars.
The trust says they could boost tourism on both sides of the Border, but Mr McAulay claims there has been a lack of research. He also fears releasing lynx in a spruce plantation will encourage the cats to stray.
He said: “Lynx prefer open woodland but Kielder is a dense, man-made Sitka spruce forest. I’d have thought their preferred habitat to be much more like the wood strips and farmland that surround Kielder Forest which, unfortunately, leads them right to the sheep. It’s such an unnecessary risk to take.”
Plans for the trial release were submitted to Natural England in July, and fears for livestock have been heightened after claims an escaped lynx killed seven sheep in Wales before it was shot dead earlier this month.
Mr McAulay said: “The trust has promised above market-rate compensation for any attacks. Yes, they are offering compensation but it could be very difficult to prove it was them.”
Neighbour Andrew Douglas, whose family has farmed at Saughtree since 1922, voiced fears for his Cheviot sheep and Limousin cross cattle. His 4,000-acre property, tended by himself and four shepherds and stockmen, is separated from Kielder only by a dyke.
The 68-year-old said: “We know from past experience in Norway that they will kill sheep. The trust says they will stay in Kielder but Wauchope Farm is basically land in the middle of the forest, and my land is literally just over the wall. How can they say that they are not going to stray? Foxes can be controlled, but lynx will be protected, and farmers will be powerless.”
A Lynx Trust spokesman said: “Kielder is an absolutely perfect habitat for lynx and is stuffed full of roe deer, their preferred prey, making up 95 per cent of the diet. That doesn’t leave much room for sheep.
“When you look at the rigorous sci data collected from the whole of Europe the kill rate is 0.4 sheep per lynx per year. No one could argue that this is catastrophic. It is the usual scaremongering from the sheep industry which everybody has heard before.
“When put in context of the two to six million sheep that die every year in the UK from disease, malnutrition and exposure it would seem far more sensible to deal with the actual risk to sheep than the perceived risk of lynx.”
Source : EXPRESS