Rewilding Britain campaigners will ask for permission to reintroduce lynx within WEEKS

Wolves and Lynx could be reintroduced under plans to 're-wild' large areas of England, backed by the head of Natural England.

Lynx are the more likely candidate to be brought back, according to Tony Juniper, but the successful return of wolves in the Netherlands without problems has demonstrated that it could be possible to do the same in England.

The Lynx UK Trust intends to submit an application to Natural England before Christmas to release six of the big cats from Sweden in Kielder Forest, Northumberland. 

As Environment Secretary in 2018, Micheal Gove rejected a similar application by Natural England after the organisation advised against it.

But Juniper assumed the role of head of Natural England last year and is more supportive of lynx than his predecessor was. 

Speaking to The Times, he said that he wanted to build on the reintroduction of beavers in Devon and white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Wight.

His comments came ahead of the launch of a new initiative to deliver on a government commitment to provide an additional 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitat in England by 2042. 

Lynx prey on deer and could help control their numbers, Juniper said, which is part of why Natural England was looking to explore their reintroduction.

In addition to Kielder Forest, Thetford Forest - that straddles the Norfolk-Suffolk border - has also been put forward as a potential site to release lynx.

Speaking about wolves, Juniper said comparisons could be drawn with 'European countries that look a bit like ours, densely populated with people, lots of agriculture and lots of urban areas and yet the wolf has slotted itself back in'.

While he acknowledged that there would be concerns with releasing the predators back into the wild, he said they had caused 'minimal impacts' in the Netherlands.

There, wolves were sighted crossing into the country from Germany. 

Head of the National Sheep Association, Phil Stocker, said the organisation opposed the proposal because there were 1,000 sheep farmers within 30 miles of Kielder Forest, and they feared for their flock's welfare.

Wolves are thought to have once been numerous in Great Britain, but were exterminated from the island through a combination of deforestation and hunting as recently as the 19th Century.  

Lynx, meanwhile, were wiped out from the UK by fur hunters and a loss of their habitat about 1,300 years ago.