Highlands & Islands

Hidden camera study finds 19 wildcats across Scotland

wildcat Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The survey detected 19 wildcats

Scientists hunting for Scotland's notoriously elusive wildcat say they have found at least 19 of the animals.

They were discovered by studying more than 200,000 images from camera traps.

Scottish Wildcat Action set up 347 of the cameras in five areas in the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, Moray and the Angus Glens, to record data over a 60-day period.

More than a third of the cameras captured images of cats, most of which turned out to be feral cats or hybrids.

The SWA set up cameras in wildcat priority areas and surveyed 620 square miles in Angus Glens, Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire, Strathpeffer Easter Ross, Strathavon Moray and northern Strathspey.

In the coming weeks, the group said they would begin a new phase of the project to trap, neuter and vaccinate feral cats, which they said posed a threat to wildcats through hybridisation and disease.

Roo Campbell, SWA project manager, said: "We are delighted with the results. Though they are preliminary, and further investigation is needed to establish the true numbers present in each of our five priority areas, SWA has established that there are Scottish wildcats out there.

"We have detected at least 19 so far but there are bound to be more as we are still investigating the data from the camera traps. That is surely good news."

The survey also detected more than 20 other species, including a raccoon which is not native to Scotland.

The most common species found were roe deer (63% of trail cameras) followed by pine marten (60%) and badgers (45%), with the latter two frequently stealing the bait intended for attracting cats to the cameras.

Image copyright SWA
Image caption An image of a wildcat captured by one of the hidden cameras

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