Saving Scotland's wildcats
Only found in the Highlands of Scotland, the unique Scottish wildcat is one of our last remaining mammalian predators. The exact population size is not known but there could be fewer than 300 left in the wild. There is a lot of evidence that the population has declined and that the decline is ongoing, leading to fears they are nearing extinction in Scotland.
Scottish wildcats look like tabby cats but have easy-to-spot differences. A wildcat has a thick tail that has thick black hoops and a black, blunt tip. They don't have white feet or lots of black spots on their flanks or rumps but do sometimes have stripes. (A domestic cat will have a thin, pointed tail, will have more spots and might have white feet.) A wildcat also usually has four thick and wavy stripes down the nape, while a tabby will have thinner stripes, if there are any visible at all.
Scottish wildcats eat small rodents and rabbits but will also eat reptiles, insects and birds.
Wildcat numbers are dwindling. Their biggest threat is from breeding with domestic feral cats. Diseases carried by feral cats are also a big problem, whilst some are persecuted by land managers who mistake them for feral cats. We are helping to save these beautiful animals as part of Scottish Wildcat Action; a conservation project which aims to reduce threats in the wild and breed wildcats for later release.
How we help
Forest management creates a mosaic of habitats that are attractive for wildcats. Clear fell sites, replanted areas and new plantations have lots of voles and mice, making them important feeding areas for wildcats. New native woodlands are also great places for wildcats to go hunting.
The hills of Scotland offer wildcats a variety of habitats. These include forests, open land, pastures, rough grazing, and river-side vegetation. Together these provide wildcats with abundant prey, cover, resting places and breeding sites. Forests provide great places for wildcats to rest or shelter – or raise a litter of kittens. They will use piles of logs and branches - many created by modern forest management - as dens for rearing kittens. We provide forestry practice guidance to woodland managers to ensure minimal disruption to these habitats:
With Scottish Wildcat Action we are creating safe places for Scottish wildcats. We site camera traps to survey wildcat numbers, build artificial dens, and create brash piles for cats. We also place hay bales in a derelict building used by cats. You can help save Scotland's wildcats by reporting any sightings: