A new initiative to promote the Scottish wildcat and reduce its risk of extinction is being undertaken by Aberdeenshire Council in association with Scottish Natural Heritage.
Scottish Wildcat Action, the first national plan for this species, will be implemented by a large range of organisations and is supported by the Scottish Government and Heritage Lottery Fund.
The first step was to create safe places for Scottish wildcats in six priority areas, and these include Strathbogie, near Huntly. Within this area, action will be taken to conserve wildcats, reduce the risks from interbreeding with feral cats, and to encourage land management practices that benefit wildcat.
Emma Rawlings, Scottish Wildcat Priority Areas Project Officer, said: “Scottish wildcats, which are our only native cat, are on the edge of extinction and urgently need action to save the shrinking populations in the wild.
“The main threats are from hybridisation with feral domestic cats, but also from disease and accidental persecution.”
Aberdeenshire councillors have been asked to ‘champion’ particular species and projects to raise awareness and progress actions to conserve these biodiversity priorities, and Councillor Katrina Farquhar has stepped forward to ‘champion’ the wildcat.
Councillor Farquhar said: “Aberdeenshire Council has identified a number of ways in which it can support the aims of this project, such as encouraging people to report sightings of wildcats, promoting responsible cat ownership, ensuring the needs of wildcat are taken into account when the council is considering planning other land use decisions.
“We hope that these combined actions will help ensure one of Scotland’s most mysterious creatures has a more certain future.”
Training is now underway for council staff to raise awareness of the threats affecting wildcat and to look at measures that can be put in place to protect wildcat and the places they use.