No wolves to be released at Knettishall Heath

Thursday 13th April 2017

Suffolk Wildlife Trust would like to reassure members of the public that it has no plans to release wolves onto one of its reserves – following a number of spoof reports.

A number of posters were put up at Knettishall Heath around April 1 indicating that the Trust, in partnership with the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, would be introducing a pack of wolves at the site by the end of the month.

The realistic-looking notices, which advised visitors to carry flare guns and not to enter the heath after dark, were removed as soon as they were seen by Knettishall’s ranger.

However, following a number of concerned messages sent to the Trust amid continuing coverage of the story on spoof news sites, the Trust would like to set the record straight.

Sam Norris, Knettishall Ranger, said: “Knettishall Heath is an ancient place, which echoes with the past and Suffolk Wildlife Trust is delighted to be working with the community to restore it to the kind of wild landscape that our Bronze Age ancestors would have recognised.

“We hope this restoration, which includes the introduction of conservation grazing with Exmoor ponies to open out the heaths will see the return of such species as nightjar. However, I can categorically say that this definitely does not involve re-introducing wolves. Just to be clear, there are no plans to introduce wolves anywhere in Suffolk.”

Although Knettishall Heath is clearly not a suitable place in which to re-introduce what was one of the UK’s biggest apex predators (the site is too small, too close to human populations and would also prove unpopular with our Exmoor ponies!) Suffolk Wildlife Trust is supportive of the scientific principles of rewilding. Indeed, encouraging nature to flourish and working to restore degraded wild places in the appropriate way is one of the reasons the Trust exists.

The Trust has been involved in re-introductions in the past, including the release of 34 captive-bred dormice in Bradfield Woods in 2006. The Trust also supports the scientific research of fellow Trusts such as Devon Wildlife Trust, which is currently studying a population of wild beavers living on the River Otter.

Steve Aylward, Head of Property and Projects at the Trust, said: “The reintroduction of any species has to be carefully considered, but can have very positive impacts. The re-introduction of beavers to the UK, for example, is not just about returning that one species to the UK but re-introducing an entire eco-system that has been lost. The beaver is a ‘keystone’ species and its absence has had a profound impact on the ecology of our rivers.

“If a species were to be picked as missing from the Breckland ecosystem at Knettishall Heath it would be rabbits, not wolves. We are currently working to encourage more rabbits to breed on the heath as their grazing patterns and digging create the perfect habitat for heathland specialists such as woodlark and green tiger beetle.”