One of the best parts of my job at Scottish Wildcat Action is that moment when the hard work has paid off and you have finally caught a cat on camera. Scottish wildcats are notoriously clever, rare and they live in small pockets in the Scottish Highlands. It can be very difficult (and highly frustrating) to get good quality images of them in the wild. Our scoping survey was no different.
Using trail cameras like this one, Scottish Wildcat Action worked across Scotland to identify six priority areas where there was evidence of wildcat activity. We found some really fantastic looking cats in Morvern on the west coast, Strathpeffer near Inverness, Strathbogie near Huntly (Aberdeenshire), then Strathavon, the Angus Glens and Northern Strathspey around the Cairngorms.
You can see more of our scoping survey images from these areas on our facebook page but here is one of these beautiful creatures.
Wildcats are rapidly being wiped out by genetic introgression, or hybridisation, which is when our native cat breeds with and produces fertile offspring with domestic cats, particularly ferals and farm cats who live in wildcat country. This results in more and more hybrid kittens, which eventually means the end of a genetically distinct Scottish wildcat.
The purpose of the priority areas part of the project is to establish wildcat hotspots we want to focus our efforts of reducing this and other threats in the wild. Coupled with conservation breeding, Scottish Wildcat Action gives one of our last remaining predators the best chance of survival long into the future. We've got five years to really make a big impact but we can only do this with the help and support of local people, so that, even after this five year period is up, there is a safe home for our Scottish wildcats.
Please do get involved, especially if you live or stay in any of these priority areas.
We're keen to recruit volunteers to help us work with these cameras and really build up a picture of what's out there so we can protect them.