Vicky is the Communications Coordinator for Scottish Wildcat Action. She has a background in third sector communications and marketing and is based at the Scottish Wildlife Trust office in Edinburgh.
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Originally published by Angus Glens Moorland Group.
Hopes are rising after the sighting of a possible Scottish wildcat was spotted on camera by a gamekeeper on a grouse estate in the Angus Glens.
Wildcats are Scotland’s most endangered mammal and there may only be a few left in this country.
However, a local gamekeeper spotted a possible wildcat enjoying a meal of rabbit when he checked footage from the camera he is operating as part of Scottish Wildcat Action’s drive to conserve the species.
Head Gamekeeper Bruce Cooper, a member of Angus Glens Moorland Group, was checking film on Wednesday evening when he saw the cat with highly distinctive markings.
The glens of Angus were identified last year as being one of the six priority areas for wildcat conservation and the grouse estate where the sighting was recorded lies within the Cairngorms National Park.
Images of the cat have now been sent by Mr Cooper to the project team for identification before it is decided what the next steps should be.
“I have lived in the area for a long time and, when I heard the Angus Glens had been marked out as a priority area or wildcats, I spoke to the local officers and decided to help by operating cameras. Another of the local estate gamekeepers in Angus is also getting involved.
“The trail cameras were installed in the New Year and I was checking the film for the second time when I saw the cat. It came to a bait of rabbit and it looks like the real deal, although that will have to be established now.”
Pure wildcats have a thick, ringed blunt tail with no stripe and tabby markings.
Scottish Wildcat Action project officers will now carefully examine the images.
Hebe Carus, Scottish Wildcat Action Officer who is leading activity in the Angus Glens and Northern Strathspey areas, said:
“Reliable identification requires having a variety of different views of the cat and having the time to look for the 7 main defining features. Only after analysing the pictures Bruce has sent can I confirm whether the cat displays all the defining features of a genuine Scottish wildcat.
“At the cameras there is also a scented post with Velcro on to try to capture hairs so we can analyse DNA. So far, we have no hairs to analyse, but we hope the cat returns so we get more photos and possibly a hair sample.”
Around 300 motion-sensitive cameras are being operated by volunteers in priority areas across Scotland just now as part of the multi-partner project, assisted by funding from the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The hope is to identify wildcats but also feral cats and hybrids.
The main threat to the wildcat is interbreeding with domestic cats, which also spreads disease.
In order to protect the remaining wildcats in their native habitat, the project team aims to trap, neuter and vaccinate unowned domestic cats and obvious hybrids before re-releasing them into the wild under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage.
Lianne MacLennan, Co-Ordinator of the Angus Glens Moorland Group, said: “Those who work and live in the glens are aware of the high numbers of different species, here. There was talk of wildcats before so it will be interesting to see what the project discovers.”
More information about the project can be found at www.scottishwildcataction.org
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.
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