Advocates for rewilding are calling for the reintroduction of the lynx as a means of controlling Ireland's growing deer population.

However, a farming organisation says it will oppose the restoration of the once native wild cat on the grounds that the predator would pose a significant risk to livestock.

A recent study led by Queen’s University Belfast and Cornell University in the US found that the reintroduction of native predator species, such as lynx could help in the control of problematic invasive species.

Rewilder and author Eoghan Daltun says the re-establishment of lynx in Ireland could help tackle the problems posed by a number of invasive species, including Sika deer.

"Sika deer were introduced here in the 19 century and have become highly over-populated. The result of that is wild native habitats like forests are completely grazed bare so they are not able to reproduce," he said.

"Any seedlings get immediately eaten, the bark is stripped from older trees, killing them.

"If we had lynx back it would help bring balance back in so many ways, by regulating the behaviour and numbers of grazers like sika deer and feral goats, but also mesopredators like fox and the invasive American mink."

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Some farmers fear the return of the lynx. John Joe Fitzgerald of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association says that the wild cat would put livelihoods at risk.

"If this lynx can kill a big deer, it can also kill a sheep or a cow. I'm a sheep farmer and we have enough predators here already in the form of the foxes and the grey crow," he said.

"To have the likes of this fella roaming around at laming time, killing more lambs, killing sheep and you have young calves out in fields – I mean who's going to be the predator to this animal if they bring it in? It’s all wrong," he added.

A beautiful and ferocious creature, the lynx may seem exotic to us today but this wild cat was once native to Ireland.

A 9,000-year-old bone uncovered by archaeological in a cave in Co Waterford belonged to a Eurasian Lynx and it is believed the cat continued to roam the land here until it became extinct around 1,300 years ago.

Strong echoes of such wild cats have survived in the oral tradition. Folklorist Dr Daithí de Mórdha says wild cats feature prominently in placenames and in mythology.

"Here in Corca Dhuibhne we have the likes of Inse na gCat and Cathair na gCat, places which have strong associations with wild cats and, in Co Roscommon, you have the well-known cave of Uaimh na gCat, where according to an old manuscript Cú Chulainn faced three wild cats," he said.

"In our legends and stories there are many instances where we have wild, vicious, dangerous cats protecting places like ringforts and underground tunnels and the hero in these tales has to kill the cat to succeed in whatever task is before him," he added.

While there is no national census data for the number of deer in Ireland, the Irish Deer Commission says there is solid anecdotal evidence from its members indicating significant growth in local deer populations in recent years.

However, Damien Hannigan from the Commission claims that while the average Eurasian lynx (weighing 25kgs) can successfully predicate on smaller mammals and species of deer such as Roe deer.

It may prove ineffective against larger species such as Sika (65kg), Fallow (80kg) and Red deer (180kg) and may lead to unnecessary wounding of deer.

"As a small country with intensive agriculture and our largest national park just 35,000 acres, habitat for the introduction of this predator is not feasible," he added.

Lynx reintroduction programmes are successfully underway in other parts of Europe, such as the south of France, Spain and Romania.

Conservationists are now seeking meaningful conversation here, exploring the possibility of initiating a similar scheme in Ireland.