Are there wildcats in Mingarry?
Earlier this week we attended an excellent Lochaber Natural History Society talk by Adrian Davis on Scottish Wildcats and the Wildcat Haven project. Adrian started by talking about the natural history of the Scottish Wildcat and highlighted the dramatic decline in numbers since Victorian times. He then went on to describe the recent work on The Wildcat Haven project in The Ardnamurchan area.
The major threats to the Scottish wildcat include
- Habitat loss
- Hybridisation with domestic and feral cats
The Scottish wildcat is in imminent danger of becoming extinct in the wild with current numbers of wildcats estimated to be between 35 and 400.
The Wildcat Haven projects aims to determine the size of the wildcat population in Scotland and establish safe areas where wildcats can thrive. This involves a consultation exercise with local people to explain the initiative and to seek support for the neutering of feral cats.
Hybridisation with domestic and feral cats is a relatively recent issue as domestic cats were not believed to have been common in the Highlands until recent times. With the decrease in the numbers of true wildcats, this continued hybridisation poses a serious threat to the long term survival of the wildcat. Wildcats can be differentiated from domestic tabby cats and hybrids using a scoring system based on body shape and coat characteristics.
Ardnamurchan was originally chosen as a good area for the wildcat haven project as it is relatively isolated and sparsely populated. In time this wildcat haven may expand to encompass surrounding areas. For example, Mingarry, Dorlin, Dalilea and Kinlochmoidart in Moidart are well wooded areas. Woodland edge is one of the preferred habitats for wildcats, so this region would make a natural extension to the project.
With this in mind I thought I would introduce you to the wild and feral cats of Mingarry and Moidart.
There have been several reports of sighting of wildcats in Mingarry in recent years. Are these wildcats, hybrids, feral cats or just domestic cats on a night time prowl?
Do you recognise any of these cats, or do you have any additional sightings you would like to add?
For futher information see: