Spy camera clue to Scottish wildcat
Published 19/04/2010 | 13:57
The secrets of the UK's most elusive predator are being revealed following a ground-breaking study, it has emerged.
Scientists have used specialist equipment including motion detectors, infra-red technology and camera traps to trace the movements of the Scottish wildcat.
The cat is endangered with less than 400 believed to be still at large in its Scottish Highland stronghold.
Nicknamed the Highland tiger and looking like a tabby on steroids, the secretive and bad-tempered wildcat can be identified by its huge bushy tail.
Once found across the British mainland, habitat loss and inter-breeding with domestic cats have led to numbers falling dramatically, with a small population still clinging on in Scotland.
The scientists have set up a series of camera traps in Cairngorms National Park in the hope that pictures will provide vital information to help them to learn more about the cat's habits which in the long run could save it from extinction.
Lead scientist Dr David Hetherington of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, told the BBC: "These camera traps are an excellent way of us getting a much better insight into where wildcats live, when they're active, and what habitat they're using.
"The major threat to wildcats these days is hybridisation, or inter-breeding, with domestic cats.
"Although they are quite different and have a completely different temperament, they are actually quite closely related genetically to domestic cats so they can produce fertile hybrids.
"If that continues we are going to lose our pure Scottish wildcat."