Every pet in the UK will be insured against lynx attacks if controversial plans to release them into forests near Glasgow and the Scottish Borders go ahead.
The Lynx UK Trust has identified land which could support up to 250 of the big cats between Loch Lomond and the Great Glen.
It is also moving ahead with plans for a trial reintroduction in the Kielder Forest, which straddles the border between Scotland and England.
Lloyd’s of London has agreed to insure pets, sheep and humans against attacks if the proposal is approved.
Lynx were hunted to extinction in the UK more than 1300 years ago and Britain’s surging wild deer population has been attributed to a lack of natural predators.
Landowners, farmers and gamekeeping groups have raised concerns about the plans, however.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor to the trust, said: “Some farmers have suggested it will be impossible to fund a compensation program, even though in reality such funds rarely cost more than 1000 euros a year on the continent.
“This will hopefully give them a great deal of confidence if the largest insurance market in the world is offering to cover any kind of attacks on livestock by lynx during a trial.”
Richard Bryant, head of the specialist division of Lloyd’s which will be responsible for insuring sheep if the trial goes ahead said he was confident attacks would be rare.
“Having assessed all the science and research on lynx predation we’re very confident that sheep attacks will be rare, so if our support can help make a trial reintroduction practical it’s a great opportunity for us to do something really positive,” he said.
“I believe this is the first time insurance has been used to assist a reintroduction project in the UK so we’re very excited about it.”
Six lynx will be released in the Kielder Forest over five years under current plans, which still have to be approved by Natural England.