A student from SRUC, Scotland's Rural College, Stephanie is studying Countryside Management. She volunteered for a day's manual labour with Scottish Wildcat Action as part of a den building exercise to improve wildcat habitat on forestry land in the Angus Glens.
Latest News - Making dens - being a wildcat volunteer for a day
On the 1st of December, my class (NC Countryside Management from Elmwood) and I were invited up to the Angus Glens to an area of wildcat habitat to build some wildcat dens. It was a great opportunity for us to gain some knowledge and awareness about our feline friends (not the kind that cosies up on your lap in front of the fire).
During our lovely drive through the glen (which was extended slightly with a wrong turn) I noticed the perfect balance between remoteness and accessibility of this location. My class and I tumbled out of our college van into the reasonably mild day to meet our mentors for the day. We were introduced to Hebe, who told us about the 5-year project and the goals for her and the Scottish Wildcat Action team. After learning about the reasons why they are in danger and what we can do to help, we had a small safety briefing then left for a jaunt down a hill, to look at one of the many dens they have in the glen. To be honest when I was told we were going to be building dens for wildcats I pictured in my head an open-wooden shelter with hay in it. Once the actual wildcat den was pointed out I realised how ridiculous the picture in my head was. The dens are of course tidied away into the landscape that are not noticeable at all, unless pointed out. What we were looking at was a pile of rocks. Of course, once seeing this, it made so much more sense than the flamboyant palace I had in mind. Most of the class also seemed surprised at the dens perfect camouflage into its surroundings.
After some lunch and spying on some local grouse we were rounded up and given a short briefing on what we were going to do for the afternoon. We were split up into 3 teams, to venture to different parts of the glen to set up some dens and cameras. I was busy drinking tea and didn’t notice I had stumbled into the team appointed the hike up the hill.
After meeting our assigned help, Gareth, from Forest Enterprise Scotland. We huffed and puffed up the hill until we arrived at a woodland edge. I expected to be told basically word for word how the den should be built and where it was built. I was really pleased with how we were all completely trusted to complete our task of building the dens. It was nice to be left with a task that was obviously so important a contribution to the project. My team and I built 3 dens, and once we met up with our other class mates, I believe we had built 8 dens that afternoon. I could see how happy we all were after completing our dens and grouping up. It was a fantastic day and I would happily go back anytime to work with the project. Hebe and her forestry comrades are doing an amazing job, they are very friendly and a joy to work with. I encourage anyone that has an interest or wanting to expand their knowledge, to go up and volunteer with these guys. My class and I are grateful for the time they spent to get us involved. In one day, we had a great sense of achievement and doing a little to help. With time and commitment, we will save the Scottish wildcat.
Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners.
This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at Forestry Commission Scotland