Ana Luisa is a cat enthusiast who has a Biology masters from Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade in Lisbon, Portugal. She is currently visiting Scotland for the first time to work as a volunteer for Scottish Wildcat Action in our Strathbogie Wildcat Priority Area.
Latest News - Bingeing badgers and wandering wildcats - exciting update from our Portuguese volunteer Ana-Luisa
Now that I have set the scene it's time to share what I've been doing. I would say a bit of everything: I've been managing some camera-traps, doing live-trapping for feral cats that need neutering, helping volunteers, identifying cats and other wildlife from photos.
But one thing at a time. Doing camera-trapping can be hard work, especially when the cameras are far from accessible points or the weather is a bit crazy.
But at the end of the day it can be really exciting, a bit like opening a surprise box. Which animals have been up here? Will I catch a cat? Will it be a hybrid, a wildcat or a feral? Oh, so many possibilities! I can never wait to get to the computer. On one such recent occasion I opened the card and...surprise, surprise...a badger had stolen the bait and came almost everyday looking for more.
It isn't always the case, but yes badgers can be a bit persistent. But they're still really cute and I know that during winter things can get a bit rough for wildlife.
But once in a while you do get a cat. I remember the first camera I checked: it was a new site, so no cat was ever recorded there. But thanks to some reports of sightings we decided to give it a try. A long walk up the hill with a bit of snow on the ground. The bait is gone! Interesting... I check the card on the viewer and there it is... a fat badger stealing the bait. But a few pictures after, a CAT! Lots of pictures of him which is amazing for pelage scoring.
I almost ran down the hill, I was so excited and could hardly wait to show the pictures to Emma Rawling, my Project Officer. Although he hasn't come back again I named him Mackie! We believe he is a very good looking hybrid (from the various shots we have), but it is still very useful information because its important to know about the movements of non-wildcats also.
The truth is you do get a bit of everything on the cameras, and some of them are pretty funny or with photogenic animals. From deer and wood mice to foxes, robins and buzzards.
Then once in a while you get really lucky and a wildcat decides to show its stripes and bushy tail. Even when the bait gets stolen we still have a good probability of attracting a wildcat, because we use a secret weapon: little bags of valerian root! Most individuals react to this scent and some of them go really crazy. Either way it makes them stay a bit longer in front of the camera which is a great advantage to us. This is crucial for scoring cats but also to identify individuals, which is the main goal.
In one of my cameras I was lucky enough to get this handsome cat, a possible wildcat, which we've now called Zig-Zag. We now know he also shows up in two other cameras run by volunteers. This possibly indicates that it is a male, going on a wander looking for females. Males normally have larger territories and during the breeding season they do travel long distances in pursuit of a mate.
And this makes the other aim of the project crucial: the neutering of feral and hybrid cats! So stay tuned for the next post and learn all about our neutering efforts in Strathbogie.
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