Tel: +44 (0) 1350 724 228

You are here: Home | News

Scottish Wildcat Action Update

SUMMARY: Keen observers of the SACS website and social media will already know that we support the Scottish Wildcat Action 'Wildcat Friendly Predator Control Protocol', and sit on its Land Managers' Group.

Scottish Wildcat Action Update

Through this group, we have been assisting the SWA team with raising awareness of the Protocol, and ensuring an ongoing legacy once the current period of SWA project funding ends next year.

Land managers who control feral cats: please click this link to read the Protocol. If you are able to trial this on your landholding, please contact SWA (landmanagement@scottishwildcataction.org), who are able to loan trail cameras and offer other assistance. You can provide your feedback on the Protocol to SWA before it is finalised towards the end of 2019. Alternatively, contact SACS directly and we'll pass on your comments or put you in touch with an SWA team member.

If you'd like to know more about SWA's work, and why saving the Scottish Wildcat is so important, you can read a guest blog here or pick up a copy of the Feb/Mar edition of Fieldsports Journal, where our Director of Policy has a wildcat conservation article.

From the SWA Team:

"Scottish Wildcat Action – a multi-partner project was launched in 2015 to address the threats to wildcats, particularly from hybridisation and land management. Working in 5 discrete ‘wildcat priority areas’, the project has carried out the UK’s largest ever survey of wild-living cats in an attempt to gauge the extent of hybridisation, as well as establish the number of wildcats left in Scotland. With potentially fewer than 100 wildcats left in the wild, the situation is far more dire than originally anticipated and it is undoubtedly the UK’s most endangered mammal. We know that the wildcats left still have a small proportion of domestic-cat ancestry, but these cats are the last vessels of wildcat DNA remaining in the wild in Scotland and as such they will be vitally important for the future recovery of this iconic species in Scotland.

Evidence collected to date suggests that crossbreeding with feral domestic cats may only have become common-place at some point from the 1950s. Our suspicion is that the wildcat population suffered continued pressure on its already reduced population over that period, forcing the remaining wildcats to breed with domestic cats at a time when the neutering of domestic cats was rare. This pressure might have come about from a perfect storm of factors, including technological advances in predator control, such as the use of powerful spot-lights for lamping, declines in rabbit from the myxomatosis outbreaks that reached the UK in 1953, and other changes in land-use practices. Whatever the cause, we are now faced with a situation where continuing hybridisation with domestic cats means that the wildcat is disappearing from Scotland. An unfortunate side-effect of hybridisation is that during predator control some gamekeepers will fail to differentiate between the tabby hybrid cats they are controlling and the legally protected wildcat.

To aid gamekeepers in their work, Scottish Wildcat Action have developed a ‘Wildcat Friendly Predator Control Protocol’. This provides a guide to identifying a wildcat as well as additional advice on reducing the risks to wildcats when carrying out legitimate predator control. SWA are planning to run a trial of the protocol over the summer months and are looking for estates to take part in this, particularly within and around the Angus Glens and Strathbogie Priority Areas. Feedback at the end of the trial will allow any adjustments to be made to protocol if required. With potential reintroductions/ reinforcement of wildcats in the future to bolster the existing population it is crucial to find an approach that helps gamekeepers in their jobs whist protecting this species. If estates would like to take part in this trail, they can contact SWA at: landmanagement@scottishwildcataction.org."