Latest News - Here Kitty Kitty...curiosity saves the cat

Here Kitty Kitty...curiosity saves the cat

Finally, the moment of truth! As I sit at my laptop with the memory card in my hand I wonder – will the sensory lures I’ve used entice the wildcats in front of the camera traps? This moment represented months of planning and hard work that ultimately formed the dissertation project for my Masters degree at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies – Edinburgh University. Then this...

It was all worth it. Pheasant feathers were one of the many sights and sounds used to attract the attention of the wily wildcats at Edinburgh Zoo.

I have been fascinated with animal sensory perception for a long time but this project offered me the opportunity to really use my passion to make a contribution to the only native feline left in the UK and I jumped at it. As an endangered mammal Scottish wildcats are so rarely glimpsed in the wild but every reported sighting of a wildcat helps build a picture of their distribution throughout Scotland. Using these reports conservation teams can survey key areas. How do they do that? Well one method, introduced in 2011 is camera trapping.

Camera traps are motion-sensitive cameras, a great option for monitoring shy, cryptic species that live in remote places, making it perfect for the wildcat, but how can you increase your chances of a wildcat visiting your camera? That’s where I step in, my research investigated lures that could be paired with the cameras to stimulate their senses and hopefully engage their curiosity. The study took place over 3 months and involved testing lures with captive wildcats that, it was hoped, would provide sights, smells and sounds that wildcats would find interesting enough to investigate further. Judging by this, I was on the right track...

Monitoring the number of cats living wild in Scotland is crucial and forms part of Scottish Wildcat Action's Conservation Plan, the biggest wildcat conservation project to date. It’s fantastic to know that something I have enjoyed so much doing could also help save this iconic, charismatic species for future generations to enjoy. Who knows, one day you might see the offspring of this little kitten out in the wilds of Scotland!

Katherine's research is yet to be published and peer reviewed so full details are not currently available but we'll keep you posted!

The Royal (Dick) Vet School of Veterinary Studies - University of Edinburgh

This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at The Royal (Dick) Vet School of Veterinary Studies - University of Edinburgh

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Image for Katherine Cockle

Katherine studied for her MSc Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh University. For her degree she investigated the use of lures to improve success of camera trapping as a technique to photograph the elusive Scottish wildcat.

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