This, a plan to introduce bears and wolves to the Scottish Highlands, is insanity on a grand scale. Dangerous insanity, too, in an area immensely popular with climbers, walkers, peak-baggers and backpackers. Mountain-bikers too, I suppose. These are not simply, as he views them, “large mammals”, but major predators, each at the top of its respective food chain. They are not to be treated lightly.
The idiot landowner is talking about introducing 10 bears, and 2 packs each of 10 wolves, the latter quite capable of becoming multiple packs (or two huge packs), in a surprisingly few years (depending on the number of females).
You know, there’s an odd belief rife among fans of the wolf, that there is no recorded incidence of wolves ever having attacked humans unprovoked – completely ignoring the fact that absence of evidence is most certainly not evidence of absence, and there is a very good reason why there’s no evidence – the wolves have eaten it! And what they leave the scavengers will take care of.
Bears, though, might prove the biggest menace to humans, and along America’s wilderness trails they take a regular toll of unsuspecting backpackers.
Eat a chocolate bar in your tent late at night – as many backpackers do (I was one for years before becoming disabled) – and a bear will come for it. And for you, too.
If you’re a woman, and menstruating, you might as well fly a “Bears Welcome” flag, as they’ll follow the blood scent upwind for miles to snack on you. And not just the fearsome and notoriously cantankerous grizzly, but black bears too. In fact the latter are far more likely to be encountered as there are relatively few grizzlies left in the US. Whichever species, though, there are two things you don’t want to do: 1. Attract them, and 2. Piss them off. And you can manage both just by being in their territory, especially a sow with cubs (male bears are boars). Nope, no idea why.
Advice on how to deal with a bear attack varies according to the “expert” you ask (who seem never to have put their own advice to the test). Play dead, say some, which can be unfortunate if your bear is fond of carrion. Attack, say others – make yourself seem as big as possible (how is rarely, if ever, explained), and rush the bear yelling and screaming. Well, OK, there’ll be screaming as this approach seems designed to piss off bears and make them rise to the challenge!
My advice, but severely frowned upon by Trail authorities, is carry a large-calibre revolver (automatics can jam at just the wrong time), and remember that bears, especially grizzlies, are tough buggers and take some killing, so learn to shoot. Bottom line though, if you’re unarmed and a bear wants you, it’s going to have you. And that will apply to Scottish bears as much as to US.
In Europe I was advised to hang a little bell from my pack, so that I’d jingle merrily as I went on my way, which would alert bears and they’d obligingly scurry off. Or, perhaps, think “WTF? It’s dinner again!” and arrive at a full-bore run, which looks hilarious but is deceptively fa…
And assuming you survive the first day, all that jingling will have driven you batshit, and you just pray you can stop twitching for long enough to stomp the bell into scrap.
There’s one thing to look forward to – if this Scottish clown ever gets to go ahead with his plans, he should be forced to spend a week – radio-tagged so he can be tracked, and can’t hunker down in a bothy** – backpacking among the bears and wolves to show just how, errm, safe it is. With any luck he’d never be seen again and the animals would be removed to a far more suitable location.
**And so any remains can be recovered.
Cruel, do I hear you say? Yes, I suppose it is a little, but I doubt the animals’ digestive systems would suffer too much.
NB: Bear predation info from A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson (the Appalachian Trail), and personal experience (Europe). Wolf info, common sense.