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Scottish wildcat - update

The following are brief summaries of some of the action that we and our partners have done since the Species Action Framework was launched. They're in chronological order, with the most recent updates at the top of the page.

11 February 2013

The five-year SAF programme finished in March 2012. We held a conference in November 2012, and you can go to a microsite external site  (we recommend you use Firefox etc. as your browser, rather than older versions of Internet Explorer) where you can access a poster for this species which summarises the work done during the SAF. You will also find:

- Audio podcasts of all the talks

- Powerpoint presentations of all the talks

- A set of all the SAF posters displayed at the conference

- A link to a podcast of the BBC Radio 4 'Saving Species' programme recorded at the conference.

In late 2013 we also hope to publish an electronic 'SAF Handbook', which will include a chapter on this species.


24 April - The Closing Conference of the Cairngorm Wildcat Project took place on 24th April in Boat of Garten. The conference was well attended by many of those that had been involved in the Project and by a wider audience of wildcat enthusiasts. The conference was opened with a recorded message from the Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson who has made it known that he wants to see wildcats on a better footing as a priority. Presentations were made on each of the key areas of work taken forward by the project;

  • raising public awareness of the Scottish wildcat and what we can all do to contribute to their conservation;
  • working with estates to ensure that the feral cat control they undertake for game management is wildcat-friendly and makes a  positive contribution to wildcat conservation
  • working with cat welfare charities to promote Trap-Neuter-and Release (TNR) schemes in areas where wildcats will benefit from these actions
  • promoting responsible domestic cat ownership (neutering and vaccination) in the countryside through public information leaflets and working with local vets
  • at the same time intensive monitoring of wild-living cat populations was carried out on 5 estates to assess the effects of the Project's activities. In addition, records of wildcat sightings and cat carcasses from road accidents have been collated to greatly enhance our knowledge of the cats living-wild in the Cairngorms National Park.

The Final Report external site   from the Project can be viewed on the CNPA website. The Highland Tiger external site website will continue to be used to raise awareness and update regular visitors of wildcat related news beyond the life of the Cairngorm Wildcat Project.

In concluding the conference, Scottish Natural Heritage welcomed that the Cairngorm Wildcat Project has demonstrated how partnerships can be developed to deliver targeted action for wildcats. Scottish Natural Heritage has now committed to developing a new national Action Plan for the Scottish wildcat with our partners; building on the lessons learned from the Cairngorm project. We will provide updates on this as it takes shape in 2013.


12 December  - Scottish Natural Heritage published Commissioned Report 479 : The use of camera trapping as a method to survey for the Scottish wildcat. The report describes the results of a joint study between Scottish Natural Heritage and the Wildlife Research Conservation Unit (WildCRU), at the University of Oxford. The study employed a grid of 20 camera trap stations and was repeated using no bait, pheasant as a bait and then a scent lure. Several wildcats were captured on the cameras during the study and also some individuals identified as hybrids. The report makes recommendations for the use of camera traps to assess for the presence of wildcats and to carry out systematic surveys. The development of these methods provides a means of monitoring populations and potentially trends. Following this work, camera traps are already being used in this way, for example as part of the Cairngorm Wildcat Project.


1 May - Scottish Natural Heritage published a report investigating the genetic integrity of the Scottish wildcat living in our countryside .  Using new microsatellite techniques, the study compared the genetic make-up and pelage characteristics of sample cats, concluding that the Scottish wildcat is sufficiently unique in appearance to identify them as distinct from domestic cats.  The work, carried out by leading scientists at the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology, provides vital information to help guide conservation action for the wildcat's future as a species.

1 May - Scottish Natural Heritage published the results of the Scottish Wildcat Survey 2006-2008.  Based on the methods used for the previous survey in 1983-87, the report concluded that wildcats appears to be persistent in their historic locations in the north and east of the country, with localised populations remaining around Ardnamurchan and Morvern.  The results are less conclusive about populations living away from these core areas.

The work highlighted the importance of land managers in understanding the species, with gamekeepers working in some of the most remote areas of the country sometimes the only source of information on the species.

Although intended to provide a comparison with the previous survey, the previous one was conducted prior to legal protection of the species and, consequently, some of the methods used then are not available now.  The current survey was also undertaken over two years, compared to the previous survey work over four years.  Regardless of these limitations, the result show a clear continuation of the historic distribution of the species.


15 April - Cairngorm National Park Authority hosted a conference to discuss Conservation of the Scottish wildcat  PDF document .  The conference successfully brought together people from different disciplines and viewpoints to discuss the future direction for management action to favour the species.  Habitat loss was raised as a key concern and views and suggestions from the conference will be used to inform strategic initiatives, such as Land Management Contracts, Habitat Networks and Cairngorm Forest Frameworks.

9 November 2009 - The Cairngorm Wildcat Project is organising a workshop in December for land managers to discuss practical conservation measures for wildcat management. The recommendations of the workshop will form the basis of management advice piloted on five trial areas in 2009.

19 October 2009 - Scottish Natural Heritage entered into a partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit external site   at Oxford University's Department of Zoology to support research investigating whether camera trapping is a potential method of survey for wildcats. This project will run over a 7 month period and aims to establish the most appropriate method of camera trapping which could contribute to future surveys of the species.

5 May 2009 - On 5th May 2009, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP launched the Cairngorm Wildcat Project external site (CWP) at the Highland Wildlife Park near Kincraig. The project involves a range of partners and interest groups working together to raise awareness and encourage favourable management practices to safeguard the wildcat population in the area of the Cairngorm National Park. This includes support for land managers as well as advice for responsible cat ownership for households in the vicinity of known wildcat areas.


19 February 2008 - The Scottish Wildcat Survey 2008/09 was launched. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) called on visitors and workers in the outdoors to be alert for any sightings of our most elusive predator, the Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris).

This survey updated the data from 1983-87 survey which suggested that the distribution of the wildcat was focused on an area north of the central belt from the North East across to Lochaber. A review published in 1995 estimated that there were approximately 3,500 wildcat in Scotland.

The 2008/09 Scottish Wildcat Survey encouraged public participation to help chart the status and number of animals across the country in order to assess the species survival prospects in Scotland.

The report is due for publication at the end of 2009.

Last updated on Tuesday 24th September 2013 at 14:11 PM. Click here to comment on this page