Escaped lynx ‘humanely destroyed’ as mystery still surrounds sheep deaths

A Eurasian lynx. Picture by Erwin van Maanen
A Eurasian lynx. Picture by Erwin van Maanen

An escaped lynx, which was blamed for the deaths of a number of sheep in Wales as a decision is awaited on a possible trial reintroduction of the cats to Kielder Forest, has been destroyed.

Dyfed-Powys Police had warned livestock farmers to stay vigilant after a Eurasian lynx named Lilleth escaped from Borth Wild Animal Kingdom, in Aberystwyth.

Now Ceredigion County Council has said that, despite ‘exhaustive efforts’ to recapture her, it received advice that the risk to public safety had increased to severe and she had been ‘humanely destroyed’ on Friday.

A statement said the lynx had strayed over to a populated area of the community and added ‘the safety of the the public was paramount’.

A statement on Borth Wild Animal Kingdom’s Facebook page said: ‘The decision to kill her was not ours and we in no way agreed to or participated in the shooting of our baby lynx. We are truly devastated and outraged that this happened’.

Following the escape of the lynx, the National Sheep Association claimed that ‘after several days in the wild, it killed seven sheep in one clinical attack, while traumatising several others in the flock’.

Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: “There cannot be a clearer warning of the damage lynx will do if they are released into the wild. And at a time when Lynx UK Trust’s application to release lynx into Kielder Forest is under review from Natural England, it could not be more timely.”

A post-mortem examination was conducted on one of the sheep that had been found dead on land near the Wild Animal Kingdom premises.

Ceredigion County Council said the report confirmed that there was evidence of traumatic injury to the neck and predation of the back legs, but it has not been possible to say what was responsible.

A spokesman for the Lynx UK Trust, the group which wants to reintroduce lynx to Northumberland, previously said that the animals ‘have a very low impact on livestock, with lynx in Europe killing, on average, less than one sheep every two years’.

In July, the Trust submitted an application to carry out a trial re-introduction of six Eurasian lynx to Kielder Forest. If permission is given, the four females and two males would be intently studied over a five-year period – amassing information that could indicate whether a full re-introduction can be carried out with more individuals across a wider area.

In September, it announced an agreement which will insure the entire sheep population against attacks throughout any trial period.