Saturday 24 March 2018

Wildcats caught on camera in Aberdeenshire

A Scottish wildcat which was photographed on a farm near Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire (The National Trust for Scotland/PA)
A Scottish wildcat which was photographed on a farm near Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire (The National Trust for Scotland/PA)

Scottish wildcats have been captured on camera.

One of the animals was filmed exploring the ancient woodlands at Drum Castle while another was photographed on a farm near Leith Hall, both in Aberdeenshire.

Often dubbed the Tiger of the Highlands, wildcats are among the country's most endangered mammals and are on the verge of extinction.

The Leith Hall feline was tested and found to have a strong genetic score of 75% wildcat, meaning she has some domestic cat ancestry like most remaining wildcats.

The cat spotted at Drum Castle was described as a "good hybrid".

Scottish Wildcat Action project manager Roo Campbell first spotted the Leith Hall cat several years ago when he was working in the Huntly area and was pleased to see her again.

He said: "I detected this cat on camera when I was doing an earlier project putting GPS collars on cats in 2013-2014.

"She was using Leith Hall and a local farm, and was a regular visitor to the trail cameras I had placed there. I managed to get a collar on her and was able to look closely at how she used the area.

"I always hoped to see her again when we began the Scottish Wildcat Action project in the same area.

"We were sent some recent trail camera images from the farm and I realised it was the same cat.

"This caused me to double-check some of the other images collected by Emma Rawling, our project officer in the area, over the winter and, true enough, it was the very same cat."

The sightings in Aberdeenshire last year were on National Trust for Scotland properties.

Richard Luxmoore, s enior nature conservation adviser for the National Trust for Scotland, said: " We tend to associate this elusive beast with the wilder parts of the Highlands but some of our best evidence comes from the more populated agricultural land in the north-east."

It is not known how many wildcats are left because when one breeds with a domestic or feral cat they produce hybrid offspring.

A total of 20 organisations are involved in Scottish Wildcat Action, a national conservation plan with "a vision to restore viable populations of Scottish wildcats north of the Highland fault line".

Press Association

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