The largest ever wildcat survey of the Morvern peninsula got underway in December 2016. When it comes to our six Wildcat Priority Areas, Morvern is the outsider. The only site on the west coast, Morvern immediately stands out as the most promising location for in situ wildcat conservation, being both the largest and the most remote of all the priority areas, with by far the lowest human population. However, these distinct geographical advantages are outweighed by the historical triple-threat of persecution, releases of un-neutered feral cats, and the extinction of the local rabbit population, an important prey species. Scottish wildcats do persist on Morvern but they are very thin on the ground, and their continued presence may be down to just a handful of savvy and resilient survivors.
A scoping survey in 2014, led by Scottish Natural Heritage, identified 3 Scottish wildcats from trail camera images, and we are extremely pleased to report that two of these individuals have already returned to our cameras this season. The highest-scoring cat was called MOR-A (also known as Skeletor because of the distinctive black splotchy markings on his back). He is a familiar face to many living on the south-west coast of the peninsula. He has damage to his right eye, which does not reflect light back to theik infra-red camera traps and gives the impression of a one-eyed cat.
Photo: "Skeletor" in 2014 (pelage score of 20/21 by Dr Andrew Kitchener at National Museums Scotland)
Photo: "Skeletor" again in 2016
This domestic cat was a juvenile when she was caught on camera in 2014 but she was one of the first cats back to investigate the bait in December 2016. It looks like she may have a touch of wildcat in her from her markings but she is still a low scoring hybrid.
Photo: Juvenile domestic cat, 2014
Photo: The same cat in 2016
The next step is to target these feral domestic cats for a short intensive programme of neutering and vaccination to protect the few wildcats that remain from hybridisation (interbreeding) and disease. The Morvern Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Return programme (TNVR) will begin at the end of February this year and we will be using the trail cameras to target other feral domestic cats and low scoring hybrids though local sightings are also very helpful. Here is another domestic cat we found on the survey that we will be targetting for TNVR.
Photo: Domestic cat, 2015
Photo: Another domestic cat in 2016.
To contact Keri, the Morvern project officer, please email or call 07920 181949.
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.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit our website at www.scottishwildcataction.org