WILD lynx could soon be roaming the Lake District as part of a scheme to bring them back to Britain after 1,300 years.

The Lynx UK Trust has launched a survey to gauge public opinion on reintroducing the large cats to the UK – and has named Cumbria as one of three potential reintroduction sites.

The charity says ‘the lynx effect’ would restore Britain’s ‘broken forest ecosystem’ by controlling deer numbers, and help regenerate rural areas through ‘ecotourism’.

“We launched the survey on Sunday and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said the Trust’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr Paul O’Donoghue.

“Lots of landowners have contacted us saying they would be willing to have them on their land – the over-riding message is: ‘We want the forest and the deer issue to be fixed.’”

Dr O’Donoghue said the Trust is looking at a number of privately-owned sites in the Lake District, including in Grizedale and Ennerdale, but still wants to hear from as many interested landowners as possible.

The other potential sites are in Norfolk and Aberdeenshire, but Dr O’Donoghue said the organisation may consider more sites due to the strength of public feeling, which has seen 10,000 survey forms completed so far.

If the trust’s licence application is granted, four to six lynx could be released at each private estate later in the year as part of a ‘scientific trial’.

Every cat will be closely monitored with state-of-the-art GPS tracking, and any kittens will also be collared.

“It’s impossible for the numbers to get out of control and the chances of attacks on humans are less than zero," said Dr O’Donoghue.

“Lynx are so shy and elusive – you’ll know they’re there but you’ll never see them.”

In response to concerns that the creatures could pose a risk to livestock, he said the Trust wanted to “work very closely with farmers.”

“We don’t think lynx are a significant risk to livestock but where there are incidents we will be offering full compensation,” he added.

The Eurasian lynx, an original native of the British Isles, has been forced out of much of Western Europe by habitat destruction and human persecution over the last 2,000 years. The last of the British lynx disappeared around the year 700.

Focused on hunting deer species and smaller prey such as rabbit and hare, they tend to be between 80 to 130 centimetres in length, with males weighing 18 to 40kg and females 10 to 20kg.

Eurasian lynx have been successfully reintroduced in Germany and Switzerland, where they have bred and colonised other areas.