An update on the released wildcats

We're now six months on from when the first releases of wildcats into the Cairngorms National Park took place. We have been closely monitoring all of the released cats, using their GPS-radio collars and targeted camera traps. As far as we are aware, 18 of the wildcats are still surviving, although winter is underway.

Of the 19 wildcats released, 17 have so far stayed within the wider project area in Badenoch and Strathspey. While some individuals have begun to settle in specific locations, most of the wildcats are still moving regularly throughout the landscape, scoping out different areas of habitat.  We would expect this type of dispersal behaviour in sub-adult wildcats, who would leave their mother and siblings around this age to go in search of their own territories. Two wandered a wee bit further, including the male that set off on an adventure to Mar Lodge. This behaviour is known as 'hyperdispersal' in conservation translocations, and means that the wildcats are too far away from the rest of the released cats to form part of the establishing population.

Some of the highlights of the last few months have included capturing hunting behaviour on camera-traps, as well as learning more about how the wildcats are faring from the various estates and landowners that we work closely with. A video from one of our camera traps below shows one of the released wildcats feeding on a hare carcass.

With the winter bringing snow and ice to the Highlands, our field team have been layering the thermals, popping micro-spikes on their shoes and braving the harsh weather to learn more about how the wildcats are coping with the colder conditions.

Moving into next year, we have to be mindful that the winter season will present the wildcats with new and significant challenges. We look forward to keeping you updated about the released wildcats in 2024.


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