Wolves in Scotland

THE DOMAIN OF THE WOLF

In the Scotland of Gaia’s Children wolves are once again part of the  landscape..

Imagine a diverse forest of pine, oak, rowan, and willows, interspersed with ponds, an open forest that you could ride through on a horse. You’d likely meet up with all sorts of animals. Not only rabbits, foxes or deer, but an occasional boar, brown bear and lynx. Maybe a wolf pack, though more likely than not the wolves would hide from you rather than go looking for you. It’s the forested world of Caledon that, two thousand years ago, covered the Scottish hills and now no longer exists. Bit by bit the forests were cleared for agriculture and crofts, the wild animals hunted to extinction. Today only a few remnants for the old forest remain in western Scotland.

Hector Boece, writing in 1536, describes the forest as containing `wild hors’ along With the `Wolffis’ in the Caledonian forests ; Wolves  were ` rycht noysum to the tame bestial in all parts of Scotland.’ Sir Robert Gordon,” says that the forests then were ‘full of reid deer and roes, Woulffs, foxes, wyld catts, brocks, skyurells, whittrets, weasels, otters martrixes, hares and fumarts’ ; and in 1621 the reward paid in that county for killing a wolf was, by Statute, £6 13s 4d.; ‘Scots’ no doubt. (Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland from its origin to the year 1630.)

SHEEP IN WOLVES’ CLOTHING

Local attitudes haven’t changed much. Mention wolves at a dinner party, and expect a long nervous silence. The proposal that wolves may one day be re-introduced into the Scottish countryside doesn’t exactly have legs. Farmers who raise sheep and cattle, and are happy that they can roam freely and safely, and don’t require  extra fencing for protection. Wolves and sheep have never gotten along. In Norway and in Spain where wolves were recently reintroduced, attacks on sheep occasionally make the news. Many locals shoot the wolves when no one is looking.

For centuries the big bad wolf has borne the brunt of our hatred. The New Testament references “Sheep in wolves’ clothing”, “False prophets who are ravening wolves.” (Mathew Ch 7).  The imagery must go back further, to the dawn of agriculture. It’s been reinforced in fairy tales (Red Riding Hood, Peter and the Wolf). More recently, horror literature gave us werewolves. There was Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man. The Underworld series, and even the wargs in The Lord of the Rings that depict wolves as rapacious beasts, drooling blood, that infect people with their poisonous bite. Even chomp on babies when hungry.

On the other side there’s a  romantic notion of wolves, that views them as kind, wise animals.  Almost sociable. Most likely the truth is somewhere in between. Wolves are not particularly cuddly animals. Like ourselves, they are unashamed carnivores. Quite ruthless the way they hunt on deer and moose, animals much larger than themselves. They’ll also go after unprotected livestock, kill sheep and leave the carcasses. But for all our dark lore and grim fairy tales, attacks on human are rare. If we’ve despised them, it’s mostly because our interests clash.

At least for now. Ecologists have long recognized that the relationship is more complex. Reintroducing wolves in Scotland may revitalize many dying ecosystems, bring benefits both to agriculture, forestry and tourism. Successful wolf re-introduction in theUnited States has helped transform the countryside within a decade, allowing diverse and healthier forests to flourish. Also bringing economic benefits in the form of wolf-tourism.

7 thoughts on “Wolves in Scotland

    • It may take a while. Lately I travelled the road from Ullapool through Elphin, to Lochinver. It’s a very remote area with few farms or sheep. Wolves could very easily be introduced there and cause few problems.

      • Well I was passing through the above area today and I’m positive I saw two wolves. I won’t give you the place but I know they are there :)

  1. Hi Paul,

    I found you on innerpeace – love the stories you weave. My name, Love, comes via Scotland, (sub-clan of McLennon), from Northern France – the name was transliterated from Louve, female wolf. Also, my mother\\\’s mother\\\’s maiden name is Brock, which I think is Scottish, and you used it in your story; badger-like.

    I recently watched the documentary, Green Fire, about Aldo Leopold\\\’s life – wow! I wept profusely! I feel deeply connected to this unamable \\\’wildness\\\'; the spirit of nature herself. I know we are few in number, those who \\\’get it\\\’, and must share and show others; somehow, lead the \\\’way\\\’ forward to a better world, and more than likely, our only hope of survival!

    More, later!

    Blessings ~

    Zahra

  2. You know, if the main concern for the livestock owners is financial loss, couldn’t the state direct earnings from “wolf-tourism” to livestock compensation programs and flock safeguarding methods like providing fencing? It seems to me that this will allow the shepherds the safety they crave while allowing wolf reintroduction. The forests benefit, the deers population decreases, and the farmers are at most inconvenienced with putting up a fence that the state provides? Hell, they could probably work it so it gets done for them so that all the shepherds need to do is approve it.

  3. Hi

    I have written a horror book and would like to use the image of the wolf from this page in promotional material. Is this possible? The novel is called The Original’s Return and is available from http://www.undiscoveredwriters.com. First chapter is available for free so you can see if my writing is something you wish to be associated with. This is a genuine request, not an advertising/spam attack!

    Many thanks

    Dave Watkins

Leave a Reply to Michelle Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>