Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Apparently Scottish wildcats are not wild about snow

WildcatWe mentioned the project earlier, and it seems that photo-traps installed to monitor the behaviour of Scottish wildcats within the area of the Cairngorms National Park are producing useful results – even when they record nothing.

In this case, the absence of images of Scottish wildcats captured by the traps suggests they have some issues with getting around when there is snow on the ground – assuming at least part of their brain is wired up anything like a domestic cat, then there shouldn’t be much surprise in this finding, as the response to a garden full of snow over a foot deep (taller than  the cat), hardly comes as a surprise once the novelty wears off. And you only have to think of your own response to a few days of having to survive and feed if you were dropped into snow 3 metres deep, even of you did have a nice fur coat attached.

More seriously, it’s suggested that snow at higher levels forces wildcats down hills and closer to humans, which they really don’t like, and the same is true of their prey, which they are forced to follow down in order to survive

In a report on the project’s findings , the scientists said further research was needed to determine whether any significant seasonal differences affected the success of camera traps set for wildcats.

The report said: “It should also be noted that no cat photos were taken when the snow was greater than four inches deep, despite photographs of pine marten and prey species being captured.

“The European wildcat is known to have trouble moving around in snow and it is likely that the Scottish wildcat has a similar problem.

“Therefore, it is recommended that camera trapping for this species is not carried out in heavy snow at is unlikely to yield good results.”

via BBC News – Scottish wildcats ‘not wild’ about snow, says SNH report.

Update

VoleLooks as if the almost complete absence of Scottish wildcats from the twenty camera traps set up in the Cairngorms might lead to more detailed research into their winter habits.

I liked the observation by one biologist that cats have small feet in relation to their body weight – so they sink into snow rather than move across it (must’ve been watching the funny ‘cats in snow’ videos on YouTube).

More interesting was the idea that while the cats have trouble on deep snow (and might prefer to stay in sheltered areas beneath trees), their prey would be able to move around under the snow if it was a small burrowing creature such as a vole.

BBC News – Further Scottish wildcats snow studies possible

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January 3, 2012 - Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , ,

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