Conservationists have asked the public whether they would support the return of the wildcat lynx to Scotland.
The Lynx UK Trust is keen for the felines, which were wiped out of the country more than 1300 years ago, to be released into the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in the Trossachs.
The group hopes their reintroduction would help control overpopulation of their prey, namely roe deer, but farmers fear the impact the cats would have on livestock.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, the director of the Lynx UK Trust, called the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park a “lynx paradise” because of its “high deer densities” and “extensive forest cover”.
He added: “It is vital to point out that we hope to develop widespread community support for our plans.
“This will not be imposed on anyone, rather we see this as an opportunity to build strong networks with partners and stakeholders to deliver what is undoubtedly, the most exciting and large scale conservation project ever proposed in Scotland.”
However, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) described the proposals as “wholly unacceptable” to farmers and crofters.
Angus MacFayden, the union’s environment and land use committee charman, said: “NFU Scotland remains crystal clear that any proposals to re-introduce predators such as lynx are wholly unacceptable to Scottish farmers and crofters.”
The process for securing permission for the trial release of lynx is complex and takes time, however, and any application would be subject to analysis and debate.
Forestry and Land Scotland, who own and manage the park favoured by Lynx UK, said it is not working with groups exploring the reintroduction of lynx to its land.
A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has been very clear that there are no plans to reintroduce lynx or any other large carnivores into Scotland, including on any part of the land that we manage.
“It remains the case – as we had advised in 2018 when this idea was first aired – that no approach has been made to us to access land for any lynx trial.
“We are not working with any groups exploring the possibility of re-introducing lynx to any part of the land that we manage and have no plans to do so.”