lynx in uk
Public supports reintroduction of lynx to UK.stefanie kraus/Flickr

The vast majority of the UK public would like to see the lynx reintroduced back to Britain, with over 90% of people saying they would support a trial programme.

The survey, by Lynx Trust UK with support from the University of Cumbria, had over 9,500 responses from people across the country, with data coming from both rural and urban communities.

Findings were weighted towards people in the countryside, who would likely live near the extinct cat and the long-term effects of their introduction.

In the survey, rural respondents made up 20% of the UK but 50% of the sample. Young people aged between 18 and 35 also make up a fifth of the UK population, but 50% of the sample. "Our figures are weighted towards those who will live alongside lynx, and those who will live with the long term effects of a reintroduction, two important groups of people," the charity said.

"Amazingly, the figures weighted towards rural communities and young people came out most positive, but the positivity overall has really stunned us; positive responses are above those recorded for beaver reintroductions in Scotland, and negative responses are a really long way below those recorded for beavers.

"And with all that said, here's some pro-active data; 91% back a trial reintroduction of lynx in the UK, 84% believe it should happen within the next 12 months."

Lynx in uk
The plan would be to put the big cats at sites in Aberdeenshire, Cumbria, Norfolk and Northumberland.Susanne Nilsson/Flickr

The Lynx Trust is hoping to reintroduce the big cat for a five-year trial, releasing up to 24 creatures on estates in Aberdeenshire, Cumbria, Norfolk and Northumberland.

After the lynx went extinct, there was a surge in Britain's deer population – largely attributed to the lack of natural predators.

Chief scientific adviser Dr Paul O'Donoghue said: "Lynx have proven themselves across Europe to be absolutely harmless to humans and of very little threat to livestock, whilst bringing huge benefit to rural economies and the natural ecology, including species like capercaillie, which face some serious problems in the UK. It's wonderful that the general public want to see lynx given the chance to do the same here."

A similar survey about the reintroduction of beavers in Scotland got an 86% approval rating, which led the government to go forward with the programme. "We're expecting to see a consistent response from Scottish Natural Heritage and hope for similar in England and Wales," he added.

Applications for the reintroduction programme are expected to be completed by the summer. The animals would be monitored by satellite for between three and five years.