Scottish Wildcat Action is a national conservation project involving over twenty partner organisations. Many of them own land in Scotland, including the National Trust for Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland to name two of them. We are all using motion-sensitive trail cameras or "camera traps" to identify cats living in the Highlands. This helps us protect what's left of our highly endangered native cats whilst being able to target problem areas for feral domestic cats that need to be caught and taken to a vet for neutering and vaccination.
Over the past two years, we have deployed around 350 trail cameras in areas of wildcat habitat. This was only possible with the help from 140 volunteers and many more forest rangers and members of staff working for our partners out in the field.
Emma Rawling is one of the wildcat project officers and is responsible for camera trapping in two of the six locations we have identified as wildcat priority areas. These are Strathbogie, Aberdeenshire and Strathavon, Morayshire. Emma gives us her top list of things to avoid when camera trapping. She hopes everyone will be able to learn from her mistakes and be able to successfully capture great images of wildlife, whether it's for fun or for a conservation project like ours.
My Top Ten Blunders
- Forgetting to put in an SD card or check batteries – we’ve all done it!
- Waving vegetation triggering the camera (wasting loads of images and batteries) or obscuring the view of your target animal - tramp it down, tie it back or cut vegetation away from the camera's view.
- Not mounting camera on solid enough backing and it falling off in high winds - make sure you tie it securely to a tree or fence post or even a small stake you hammer into the ground.
- Setting a camera looking directly into the setting or rising sun (triggers and wastes shots) or into the face of wind and snow so the lens gets covered with ice in the winter.
Photo: Sun flare on the camera lens due to facing it into the rising sun
- Picture ‘white out’ -where the animal appears a white blur as its too near the camera- move camera further back or put bait further away from the camera.
Photo: White out
- Bait goes missing - if you have scavengers such as dogs, badgers or foxes around, food bait disappears quickly, so try scent lure instead which can attract cats longer.
- Placing a camera where passing sheep, cows, dogs or even cars trigger it constantly- thousands of wasted images! Can lead to amusing cow selfies though!
Photo: Sheep appeared a lot
- Leaving it too long between visits to check the camera and missing out on some shots because the SD card is full! Try a bigger SD card, using stills rather than video mode or more frequent visits.
- Missing wildlife in the images by not looking really carefully- often creatures hide in the images, even small things like mice.
Photo: Can you spot the fox?
Photo: Can you spot the hare?
10. Don’t put a trail camera too close to a watercourse - flooding can happen anytime and I have a great series of videos of water rising – (note: trail cameras are not submersible!)
Remember to laugh at your mistakes and expect the unexpected when camera trapping and enjoy the random surprises! Oh, and if you find a wildcat be sure to let us know! Report your sightings using the Mammal Tracker app on your smartphone or via our website here.
With thanks to Scottish Wildcat Action's Strathbogie and Strathavon volunteers for helping to collect the images.
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