Imagine you are ambling along a footpath. On one side is a stand of birch and on the other is a forestry clear-fell, now deep with grass and patched with gorse. You turn a corner and there, padding towards you is a cat. You freeze but too late, you’ve been spotted. With a bound and a tail-flick, it’s gone. The undergrowth doesn’t even flinch as the cat cuts into it and, heart still beating; you wonder: had it ever been there?
You’ll replay the scene in your mind: did it have the thick blunt tail of a wildcat? Were those spots or were they stripes on the flank? It was certainly big. Was it a wildcat, a hybrid, a tabby feral cat? Whichever you think it was, we want you to report it; especially if you live in or near one of our Wildcat Priority Areas (Strathpeffer, Strathbogie, Strathavon, Strathspey, Angus Glens and Morvern).
Image right: Scottish wildcat.
Knowledge of the cat populations living in the wild really helps us with conservation activities, such as targeting our Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Return (TNVR) in locations where there is evidence of feral cats and obvious hybrids. The more tech-savvy among you might wonder if there could be a nice method of reporting your sighting there and then. Well, there is!
Today week we launched our wild-living cat sightings app. We wanted to avoid re-inventing the wheel and, let’s face it, you don’t often see cats in the wild, so we’ve teamed up with the Mammal Society to adapt their Mammal Tracker app for iPhone and Android. To help you decide what type of cat you spotted, the app has been updated with descriptions on cat ecology and behaviour and clear illustrations of typical Scottish wildcat, domestic tabby cats and, if there is such a thing, a typical hybrid cat.
Image left: Hybrid cat.
You can plug in your current location based on your phone’s GPS if you are reporting your sighting directly on the scene, or find your location on a map. The app also lets you upload still images of your sighting, should you be lucky enough to get some. If you go one better and obtain some video footage, please send these directly to us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Mammal Tracker covers all mammals in the UK, so you can happily ping it any other species you see. All records go straight to a national database known as iRecord where our highly trained and deeply knowledgeable project staff can verify your sightings.
Image right: Tabby domestic cat.
Alongside this, you’ll see a change to our online sighting page. Not only have we added our brand-new hybrid cat illustration, but we have integrated the sightings form into the same system used by the Mammal Tracker app. This way, no matter which reporting method you use, your sighting goes to the same database. But my favourite bit of the new webpage is the map showing the verified sightings collected by you and sent to Scottish Wildcat Action. Using this map, you too can see where members of the public have reported cat activity and you can look out for your own sighting to pop up on the map. The data automatically integrates with the National Biodiversity Network, used by planners and ecological consultants to identify where development activity might disturb vulnerable species, so your sightings can help our wildcat in a multitude of ways. If you are concerned about public disturbance to wildcat reported to us, don’t worry, we only show the location to the nearest 1km.
So download the Mammal Tracker App for free or visit our sightings page and become part of our volunteer network of eyes and ears.
To see the wildcat map, please click here or download the app free from the iTunes App Store or from Android Market.
For more information about the project, visit www.scottishwildcataction.org or on Facebook and Twitter @SaveOurWildcats.
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.