SRUC signs up to national wildcat conservation project

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SRUC students (left to right) - Sean Ramage, Gregor Mitchell, Danielle Stewart and Kirstie Straiton standing behind the completed - and well hidden - artificial den.

Students from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have joined the national fight to protect and save Scotland’s wildcats.

The students this week (Thurs 1st December) joined staff from Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) – the partnership of more than 20 Scottish environment agencies – to establish artificial dens at sites on Scotland’s national forest estate in Glenisla.

As well as helping to build six dens at key sites in the priority areas, the students also helped to set up cameras at each den site to monitor progress.

The work parties were led by partnership staff from Forestry Commission Scotland and SNH.

Hebe Carus, Scottish Wildcat Action Officer in the Strathspey & Angus Glens priority areas organised the den building activity.

Hebe said;

“SWA is a national effort to save Scotland’s wildcats and to have SRUC on-board is fantastic.

“If wildcats are going to have a fighting chance it really is going to require a concerted effort from everyone because we need to look at solutions that work at a landscape scale. That will require teamwork.

“On the day we explained why den building is important and just how vital good forest and habitat management - and habitat connectivity - are to the programme.”

SWA’s aim is to lay the groundwork that will support long-term action to restore viable populations of Scottish wildcats north of the Highland boundary fault line. Its five-year programme includes reducing threats in the wild, conservation breeding, and carrying out extensive monitoring and research.

The dens that the SRUC students’ built will determine whether wildcats are prepared to use them as safe places. If they are acceptable to the wildcats, then artificial dens could be more widely used to encourage them into new areas and to raise young.

Victoria Pendry Lecturer Countryside Management SRUC Elmwood Campus, said;  

“Working with Forest Enterprise and Scottish Wildcat Action was an amazing experience for our countryside management students. 

“Our main ethos is to get our students involved in real projects allowing them consolidate theory with practical habitat and species management. 

“The students had a tremendous day constructing dens and understanding the importance of this project in the protection or our iconic wildcat. 

“Many thanks to all involved in offering this valuable opportunity.”

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. The SWA partnership involves: Scottish Natural Heritage, Cairngorms National Park Authority, National Museums Scotland, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies - Edinburgh University, Aigas Field Centre, British Association for Shooting and Conservation, Chester Zoo, Forestry Commission Scotland, Highland Council, Highland Foundation for Wildlife, John Muir Trust, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority, National Farmers Union Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Wildlife Trust, WildCRU (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.  or Vicky Burns (SWA) on 07799 342380.