Episode 119: Land and Deer Management in Scotland with Megan Rowland

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For many of you, Megan Rowland needs no introduction. She is a Deer Management Officer for NatureScot, Scotland’s nature agency. Before that, she worked as a surveyor for RSPB Scotland where she surveyed the entire suite of Highland bird species. She has also been a volunteer for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, a local Raptor Study Group, the Scottish Mink Initiative, and the British Red Cross. Megan is a founding member of the Scottish Crofting Federations’ Young Crofters. Moreover, she’s The Youth Ambassador for the Highland branch of the British Deer Society and a Lantra Scotland Game & Wildlife Industry Champion.

That is a really impressive resume and I am excited to bring you my conversation with Megan. We started our chat with a general discussion about the red deer situation in Scotland and related land use and land management issues. From there I asked a few questions related to deer stalking in the Highlands. So, those of you who dream about a Highland stag might pick up some useful tips. Finally, we ended up talking about rewilding since no podcast about land management in Scotland would be complete without this topic.

You can find more from Megan by visiting her website Wayfaring and Wandering or by following her on one of the social media platforms: Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Episode 115: Coexisting with Large Carnivores with John Linnell

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Large terrestrial carnivores, like wolves, bears and lynx, are the poster children for conservation and rewilding efforts. Also, they are usually right in the epicentre of the human-wildlife conflict which always sparks emotions. That makes it easy to use them to politicize conservation.

In many previous podcasts, our discussions about rewilding inevitably led us to talk about the issues surrounding large carnivores. But this episode is solely dedicated to our coexistence with these predators. And that’s because today’s guest is Dr John Linnell, who conducts interdisciplinary research on the interactions between humans and wildlife to mitigate conflict.

John works as a senior scientist at the Department of Terrestrial Ecology at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and as a professor at the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management at the Inland Norway University of Applied Science.

Episode 114: The Implausible Rewilding with Steve Cracknell

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It’s no exaggeration to say that this was the most anticipated book of the year for me. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since, as regular listeners know, I’m keenly interested in rewilding and the conflict surrounding it. Therefore, it was my pleasure to chat with the author, Steve Cracknell, about the book, how it came to be and some particular situations portrayed in it.

In his book “The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees” Steve takes the reader into the middle of the conflict surrounding the reintroduction of bears in the French Pyrenees. He travels across the Ariège in southwestern France and beyond to interview people on both sides of the conflict. The shepherds, who are suffering livestock losses, argue that bears are a threat to their way of life. The environmentalists point to the need to protect the environment.

That immensely interesting and complex story is painted against the backdrop of the beautiful mountain landscapes and culture-rich scenery of rural France. It turned out to be not only the most anticipated book but also the best I’ve read on the subject. And I haven’t even mentioned how beautiful it is, with stunning photos and high-quality paper.


The return of large predators might help to reinvigorate nature. But are wild animals like wolves and bears compatible with livestock farming? Will their arrival destroy mountain communities? Unable to decide on the issues, Steve Cracknell climbs up to the isolated summer pastures of the Pyrenees to talk with those most concerned: the shepherds. He also meets hunters and ecologists – and goes looking for bears…

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

The Implausible Rewilding of the Pyrenees by Steve Cracknell – A Book Review

I have followed Steve Cracknell’s work for some time and so, as soon as I learned that he was going to publish a new book, I began to wait for the release date. Without exaggeration, I can say that for me it was the most anticipated book of the year. And when I finally got it in my hands, it not only lived up to but exceeded my expectations!

(I obviously couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk with Steve on my podcast. You can listen to our conversation here.)

The first thing you notice when you hold the book is that it’s heavy! From the high-quality chalk paper, beautifully reproduced photos and careful typesetting to the deliberate font typeface selection, the quality is absolutely top-notch. No detail was left unattended. It is easily the best put-together book I’ve had in my hands for over a decade! As a result, its photos in online bookstores don’t do it justice. Yes, it’s more expensive than your average book, but it’s worth every penny. And now, let’s talk about the content.

As the title suggests, the book is about rewilding. In the late 90s, a rewilding program in the Pyrenees started with the release of a brown bear named Pyros. Over the coming years, more bears were introduced from Slovakia. Predictably, this sparked an ongoing conflict. On the one side, are the anti-bear organizations that consist mainly of shepherds who are sustaining losses to their flocks. On the other side are the environmentalists and the government who are pushing for further rewilding.

One could mistakenly think that this conflict is black and white and without nuance. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are farmers and shepherds who are willing to accept their losses and members of non-farming communities who are not particularly fond of sharing the landscape with large carnivores. And so, Steve’s book takes us into the middle of the conflict through the author’s first-hand experiences, engaging interviews and historical outlines. All that against the background of the beautiful mountain landscapes and culture-rich scenery of rural France.

However, most importantly the book remains balanced and unbiased. And although the author admits that being completely objective is nearly impossible, he goes to great lengths to give all sides a fair opportunity to express their views. So in the end, the book leaves the reader with beautiful pictures in his head and substantial amounts of food for thought.

When I finished the book I felt a sense of loss because I wanted to keep on reading. That’s how I can tell a great book. Whether you are stoked about the rewilding movement or you’re one of its fierce opponents, I would recommend it without any hesitation. Go and buy it now!


The return of large predators might help to reinvigorate nature. But are wild animals like wolves and bears compatible with livestock farming? Will their arrival destroy mountain communities? Unable to decide on the issues, Steve Cracknell climbs up to the isolated summer pastures of the Pyrenees to talk with those most concerned: the shepherds. He also meets hunters and ecologists – and goes looking for bears…

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Episode 101: Beak, Tooth and Claw with Mary Colwell

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Last month, I wrote a review of an excellent book titled “Beak, Tooth and Claw: Living with Predators in Britain” by Mary Colwell. At the end of that blog, I said that I would really love to have an opportunity to talk with Mary on my podcast. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long! After a brief exchange of messages, Mary and I agreed to get together and record an episode.

Mary Colwell is an environmentalist, campaigner, freelance producer and author. She is also well known for her work protecting an endangered wader, the Eurasian Curlew.

During the podcast, we talked about her motivations for writing the book and its reception. We also discussed how Mary approached the research required to write her book, along with various facets of living with predators and the complexity of issues this creates. From there we went on to the ever-interesting subjects of conservation and rewilding.

Obviously, this podcast wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the curlew, our largest wader. Mary explains why the curlew population is declining so rapidly, what is being done to stop this trend, and what can you do to help out!


Mary Colwell travels across the UK and Ireland to encounter the predators face to face. She watches their lives in the wild and discovers how they fit into the landscape. She talks to the scientists studying them and the wildlife lovers who want to protect them. She also meets the people who want to control them to protect their livelihoods or sporting interests.

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Beak, Tooth and Claw by Mary Colwell – A Book Review

It’s not often that I write a book review. But every now and then I come across a book that I really wish everybody I know would read. In my podcast, the subject of our difficult coexistence with wildlife is featured in many episodes. By far the most complex and difficult issue is our coexistence with predators. Since the dawn of time, our species has lived in danger of being preyed upon, while at the same time competing for prey. With the development of farming, this conflict continued as we protected farm animals from predation. This created a deeply rooted aversion to predators and, as a result, today almost all of their populations are severely depleted.

Nowadays, we are becoming acutely aware of our impact on the environment and that it is not always something to be proud of. A complex picture emerges. We are torn between the old animosity towards predators and the new urge to preserve them or even rebuild their populations. In her book “Beak, Tooth and Claw”, Mary Colwell goes deep into this complicated topic, carefully examining our past and present relationships with predators living in Britain. And although the book is focused on Britain I believe it is equally relevant to Ireland or any other country. It is about the human relationship with predators in general. 

After the introduction to what a predator is (we don’t tend to think about badgers or tits as predators), Mary dedicated a chapter to each species. Foxes, badgers, eagles, corvids, lynx, wolves and so on. From these chapters, the reader can absorb many interesting scientific facts. What makes this book stand out is that it presents and acknowledges arguments from people on both sides of the spectrum. Those who want to kill and control predators and those who oppose such practices. In this regard, Mary does an excellent job! Never once did I feel like she was arguing from a moral high ground and telling the reader what to think.

What struck me while reading this book is the same thing that I noticed during the conversation, on my podcast, with environmentalist and photographer, Peter Cairns. The presence or notion of reintroduction of any predator species is always controversial and makes some group unhappy. Whether birds or mammals, if they’re causing any inconvenience to humans, we want them gone. Or at least pretty close to gone. And while that is too extreme, because humans have modified the natural balance between species, some lethal control measures are required and even well justified.

I would really thoroughly recommend this book for anyone interested in nature, conservation, hunting, farming or rewilding. If you approach it with an open mind and without prejudice, it will serve some serious food for thought. It might be your springboard to a deeper understanding of these complex problems.

If and when the opportunity arises, I would love to chat with Mary on my podcast. Until then, do yourself a favour and order a copy of “Beak, Tooth and Claw”. You won’t be disappointed. 


Mary Colwell travels across the UK and Ireland to encounter the predators face to face. She watches their lives in the wild and discovers how they fit into the landscape. She talks to the scientists studying them and the wildlife lovers who want to protect them. She also meets the people who want to control them to protect their livelihoods or sporting interests.

Tommy’s Outdoors is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk

Episode 92: Upland Ecology with Cathy Mayne

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In recent episodes, I have presented a whole host of views and opinions regarding rewilding, land management, and the need to change the way we coexist with nature. In this episode, we continue on that path, but with a guest, Dr Cathy Mayne, who has a particularly interesting perspective. That perspective might not be entirely aligned with the usual rewilding approach, but it is very well thought out, balanced and realistic.

Cathy is an ecologist with vast experience in environmental management. She has a deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in land management. She also has a strong background in deer management and is a hunter herself. Currently, she is the Principal Ecologist at the Mountain Environment Services consultancy.

This episode is an absolute must for anyone interested in nature conservation, rewilding, and sustainable living. Cathy, without a doubt, is one of a kind and I am sure that our conversation will be as fascinating and informative for you as it was for me.

Episode 91: Beaver Trust with Chris Jones

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In this episode, once again, we are going to talk about ecological restoration and bringing back species that were extirpated from their native range. Our guest is Chris Jones who is the Restoration Director at Beaver Trust.

During our conversation, we discuss the history of Beaver Trust, how it was found and why. Then we discuss beaver ecology and the role of beavers in the ecosystem. Chris gives us some real-life examples of benefits that beavers bring, not only to the environment but also to humans.

We finish our conversation by discussing the future of beaver reintroductions and broader, the future of ecological restoration. This episode is a must-listen if you are interested in ecology and habitat restoration.

Episode 89: Camera Trapping and Large Mammal Monitoring with Adam Francis Smith

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In this instalment of the podcast, our guest is a young scientist, Adam Francis Smith, who lives in the Bavarian Forest National Park. Adam specializes in large terrestrial mammal monitoring and predator-prey interactions. He also works for the Frankfurt Zoological Society where he focuses on specific project areas in Ukraine and Belarus and where, with a team of ecologists, he tries to protect large wilderness areas.

During our conversation, Adam took us on a fascinating journey to, among other places, the Chernobyl Radiation and Ecological Biosphere Reserve where he and his team set camera traps to monitor predator and prey species. Of course, there was no way to avoid mentioning rewilding, a topic that is prominently featured in recent podcasts.

Episode 88: Rewilding Scotland with Peter Cairns

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Peter Cairns is the executive director of the environmental charity Scotland: The Big Picture, the first organisation in Scotland wholly dedicated to championing rewilding. We started our conversation by discussing the controversy surrounding the term rewilding. Since rewilding (for want of a better, less controversial, term) is of great interest to me, the discussion started to flow from there.

After that, we discussed a wide range of related socio-economic and environmental issues. Finally, we ended up examining individual species that had been extirpated. Some of them, like beavers, have since been reintroduced. Others, like lynx, could be reintroduced in the future. And wolves… yes we talked about wolves too. But don’t worry, this conversation wasn’t about some fantasies. I feel like we had a very reasonable and balanced discussion. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.