Latest News - Neutering feral cats in the Angus Glens to help Scottish wildcats

Neutering feral cats in the Angus Glens to help Scottish wildcats

We have now been in the Angus Glens since December, and the beauty of the area and surprisingly good weather for the time of year has made it a brilliant place to work. Starting with the systematic placing of camera traps throughout the forests, you just never know what will turn up in front of the camera, and this adds to the excitement of a project like this.  

It's fascinating to get a glimpse into the secretive lives of the cats residing in the forest.  You spend hours in their environment and pretty much never see them.  Then you find out they visited your camera trap an hour after you were there!  

Angus Glens - wildcat priority areaAngus Glens wildcat priority areaWhen you have cat traps open, ready for a specific target feral cat, you can be forgiven for thinking you are turning nocturnal! Be prepared to set out early in the morning, when it's freezing cold and dark.  Head torches will be your new best friend!  And again, the last check will be in the dark.  There's something very special about being out in the forest when you know it's just you and nature.

Being ready to speak with members of the public and answer questions is also vital.  We have had a very positive reaction from people in our area.  The interest was peaked when Scottish Wildcat Action were featured on BBC Countryfile.  There is a genuine interest and positive reaction when they discover that you are making an effort to help the beautiful, native wildcat.  

Another important aspect to the daily life of a trapper is not being squeamish!  Be prepared to be handling a variety of food items which are not normally consumed by your average human, but very tempting to the cat!  

One of the key aspects of our daily work is going through all the images captured on camera.  This can be variable from just 50 pictures to anywhere near 1727!!  So, after being outside all day, you get home, kick your boots off and get comfortable on the sofa looking through and cataloguing all the footage never knowing whether to expect 500 pictures of a "mouse party" or a " pine marten dance". Most exciting of all is to watch the cats engaging with the prey items, which we tie to tree trunks, and off the ground so the cats have to reach up and twist and turn to get it. This allows us to get photographs at different angles. In particular, we are looking at the pelage markings, on each side, the back and the tail.

Feral cat ready to be neuteredPhoto of a feral cat under anaesthetic ready for a vet to treat it.

Based on this with the Scottish Wildcat Action officer, we can decided if we should try to humanely trap that individual in order to take it to a vet to be neutered and vaccinated or if we are confident that the pelage possesses key wildcat features such as a ringed, bushy tail. Also we check against pet cats in the area.

When we do catch a cat for Trap Neuter Vaccinate Return, animal welfare is paramount. Noise, movement and lights are all kept to a minimum. The veterinary surgery is located in Kirremuir (Thrums), and cats are usually ready for release in the early afternoon on the same day. We will continue collecting information on the cats living in these areas and trapping for feral cats until mid-March.

See if your pet cat was seen on one of our cameras by checking our mogshots gallery or report a sighting of a cat.

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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Image for Kelsey Wilson

Kelsey is one of the team working in the Angus Glens to carry out Trap Neuter Vaccinate and Return of feral cats to prevent them from breeding and passing disease to Scottish wildcats.

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