Tuesday, 20 November 2018

CARL WRITES: 22/10/18 - Lochnagar, Aberdeenshire

Read the original story here.

Two videos have appeared that seem to show genuine wildcat kittens. Mr. Usher from Edinburgh told BBC Scotland:

“I was going across a boulder field, being quite careful with where I was going because there lots of drops down. Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly saw something move and instinctively thought it was a tail.”

“It was the wee one first that I saw and that gave me time to put down my bag, take out my camera, start filming it and zooming in. It didn’t want to move so it was great”.

“I changed course, going off further to the left to keep well out of their way. I looked round after another ten minutes or so and found that they were still watching me”.

“At the time I thought there were two, but then going back over the footage in slow motion I found a third one just poking out, and there may have been more as well”.

“At the time it didn’t really sink in, and by the time I got home I thought: Wow, that’s actually something special”.

The British race of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) was at one time found all over the British Isles, but according to popular belief, were exterminated over much of their range during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and are today totally confined to Scotland.

Wildcats tend to be larger and heavier than domestic cats, although the size range is considerable. The head has distinctly tabby markings, the nose is flesh coloured and the animals have a prominent white throat. The dorsal colouration of the coat is a yellowish-brown/grey, much darker than the ventral side, which is pale.

There is a broad dark-coloured dorsal line made up of longitudinal stripes from which irregular stripes which run onto the stomach.

The tail has several dark coloured, encircling bands, of which only the final two or three count as complete ‘rings’. The tip of the tail is black.

The kittens are usually more distinctively marked than the adults and that for the first few months of their lives their tails are tapered to a point like in domestic cats (Felis catus).

A tabby, striped coat and a bushy tail, with distinctive bands are also found in domestic or feral cats and are therefore not definite wildcat characteristics. Both species often display the traditional ‘M shaped’ markings on the forehead.

Hybridisation with domestic cats has clearly taken place over much of the wildcats geographic range and today it is difficult, if not impossible, to say just which populations have been affected by intragressive cross breeding.

The purity of this species is typically accessed using a 21 point scoring system examining  F. s. grampia physical characteristics.

The most visible kitten on each of the videos looks very promising, with strong nape stripes and a thickened (non tapered) tail.

It has been estimated that there are only between one hundred and three hundred Scottish wildcats alive today, and we are unsure as to whether the English specimens, which undoubtedly existed into historical times, were members of the same (Scottish) sub-species.  

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