The Scottish wildcat is sometimes referred to as the Highland Tiger, a name that is perhaps becoming more apt as its plight of declining numbers is similar to its big cat cousins.
Many fear that the wildcat is now on the edge of extinction and urgent action is required to save the population from disappearing.
One of the main problems facing the wildcat population is hybridisation with domestic cats. Due to such small numbers of wildcats the likelihood of them finding a pure breed mate is very small but finding an unneutered family pet or feral cat is much more common. Feral cats also often carry a number of diseases which can spread to the wildcats which can be fatal.
Persecution from land owners, especially those with game birds can also be an issue though the animals are often mistaken for feral cats which can legally be shot as a pest control method.
With a number of threats to the already low numbers of wildcats left in Scotland, Scottish Wildcat Action has now launched a new website as part of a wider Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan to try and save the remaining animals. As well as raising awareness of the plight of wildcats the group hope that the public will report their own sightings to help build up a picture of the remaining population.
While Scottish Wildcat Action has identified six priority areas where they have evidence of wildcat activity anyone can report potential sighting, giving details of the individual seen including the animals markings.
Currently areas where individuals have been captured on camera trap footage include Morvern on the Scottish west coast, Strathpeffer, Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire, Strathavon, the Angus Glens and Northern Strathspey.
An exact population number for the Scottish wildcat is currently unknown but in 2012 surveys by the Scottish Wildcat Association claimed that the number of pure breed wildcats could be as little as 35. Scottish Wildcat Action are hopeful that the new national conservation plan will help create more accurate data on the cats, reduce the risks from feral cats and aims to bringing back viable populations of Scottish wildcats by 2019.
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