National forest estate offers ideal habitats for Scottish Wildcats.

wildcat camera trap

 

Building artificial dens to try to encourage Scottish wildcats to settle and breed on Scotland’s national forest estate is just one of the measures being taken in a multi-agency conservation project to save the ‘Highland tiger’.

The first national conservation effort to halt the loss of wildcats and restore viable populations in the Highlands, Scottish Wildcat Action is an ambitious five-year project involving more than 20 leading professional conservation organisations, including Forest Enterprise Scotland, SWT, SNH and RZSS.

The project, which includes substantial research and a conservation breeding programmes, is also supported by the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Kenny Kortland, Species Ecologist with Forest Enterprise Scotland, said;

“Wildcats prosper in a mosaic of habitats -  in Scotland they tend to select areas with forests for them to shelter in, but with adjacent open areas or grass and scrubland nearby for hunting.

“Well managed, commercial forests - with mixed age classes of trees and grassy clear-fell areas and riparian zones - are thought to be ideal for wildcats, so it makes sense that we would have a part to play in this project.

“We’ve helped the team build up their knowledge local sightings and of our forests - some of which, like Clashindarroch and Glen Doll forests, are huge and in remote areas. Hundreds of hectares have already been surveyed with camera traps, and these have recorded a wide range of species – including wildcats.”

The surveys also found that in most cases Scottish wildcats were sharing territory with or were living adjacent to feral cats, hybrid cats and un-neutered pet cats, presenting a huge risk of further hybridisation and of disease being passed into the wildcat population.

den 2 web 2

Scottish Wildcat Action’s priority areas project officer Emma Rawlings, said;

“We’ve developed a really positive relationship with the FES team. Their assistance has been invaluable as we work to build artificial den boxes for wildcats in the hope that these will provide safe places for the cats to shelter and breed. 

“If we can design the perfect den that the wildcats like, we will be able to monitor and protect them from disturbance more easily.”

If you would like to help the project you can send in your cat sightings to www.scottishwildcataction.org/how-you-can-help or via the Mammal Tracker smartphone app.

Notes to editors

  1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment and Forestry Directorate.
  2. Forest Enterprise Scotland is an agency of Forestry Commission Scotland and manages the National Forest Estate on behalf of Scottish Ministers.
  3. Scottish Wildcat Action unites leading experts from more than 20 key organisations. The organisations who form the Scottish Wildcat Action Steering Group are: Scottish Natural Heritage; Forestry Commission Scotland; Cairngorms National Park Authority; National Museums Scotland; Royal Zoological Society of Scotland; Scottish Gamekeepers Association; Scottish Wildlife Trust; National Trust for Scotland; The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies - Edinburgh University; Other organisations who have committed to delivering the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan: Aigas Field Centre; British Association for Shooting and Conservation; Chester Zoo; Highland Council; Highland Foundation for Wildlife; John Muir Trust; Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority; National Farmers Union Scotland; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Scottish Land and Estates; Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University.
  4. Tha Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba na phàirt de Bhuidheann-Stiùiridh na h-Àrainneachd is Coilltearachd aig Riaghaltas na h-Alba. Tha e an urra ri riaghladh agus cumail maoineachadh is comhairle ri coilltearachd ann an Alba. Tha Iomairt Choilltean na h-Alba na fo-bhuidheann aig Coimisean na Coilltearachd Alba a tha a’ ruith Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta.
  5. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Forestry Commission Scotland press office, 0300 067 6507 / 07785 527590 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.