Sunday, 2 March 2014

Locating Wildcats

On a recent walk across the higher slopes of Ben Hiant we came across our first evidence of the presence of local wildcats, some scat neatly deposited beside the remains of a deer's leg, the bones of which had been picked clean.  We've probably seen scat before, but didn't realise what we were looking at. It tends to be less dark than pine marten scat, has characteristic rounded ends, and is supposed to smell like domestic cat faeces.

Over the last weekend I had a very enjoyable morning out with vet James Kavanagh (right) and Zoology graduate Ewan Brennan looking at some of the trail cameras they've deployed over the last few months across this end of the peninsula.  One of the things that impressed me was the amount of wildcat scat they have found, which they've used to help them site the cameras.  The scat is often on rock outcrops, on top of tussocks, or in other prominent positions - so the cats seem to use it, along with their urine, to mark their territory.

With the wildcats' breeding season upon us shortly, Ewan and James are leaving to return to their normal work.  James has taken time off from his job as a vet in Somerset to take part in the project, so his contribution has cost him money, and Ewan has also given his time freely.  They're leaving almost thirty cameras behind which will be operated and maintained by local volunteers.  The cameras are located in all sorts of environments, from open land, where they're usually fixed to convenient boulders, to scrubby woodland, and in the coniferous plantations.

Ben McKeown, who works for Ardnamurchan Estate, is one of the people who'll be setting and checking the cameras.  It isn't always a very pleasant job - this camera was sited to monitor activity round a very dead sheep.

It goes without saying that the project is asking everyone to leave the cameras alone.  At the same time, they're asking for any news of wildcats - the contact number and email address are here - and they'll be permanently available via the box headed 'Wildcats' in the right-hand column of the Diary.  Your help would be much appreciated.


  1. This is so exciting for Ardnamurchan . Hope to learn more when we are up in May .
    Best wishes to all the team .

  2. We have seen 'traces' of them in the past on Ardnamurchan but never been fortunate to actually see one.
    We did wonder about the cameras when we spotted them, thought they may have been for poacher activity but then that sort of lowlife would steal the cameras too.
    Interesting and excellent that people are so willing to give time and resources for such a project.