Highland Tiger photographed a mile from centre of Kintore

Photographs of one of Scotland’s rarest mammals near Kintore Golf Club have caused quite a stir in wildlife circles.

The Scottish Wildcat, sometimes known as the “Highland Tiger”, is an endangered species with only 400 believed to remain over the whole of Scotland. In the past they were hunted because of the danger they posed to farm animals, or for their fur, but these days the greatest threat is interbreeding with domestic cats.

Scottish Wildcat
© K McEwen All rights reserved

This point was picked up by the Cairngorm National Park Authority’s Wildcat Project Manager, Dr David Heatherington when he saw these pictures. “I must admit I’m pleasantly surprised that such a good-looking cat inhabits an areas so close to Aberdeen,” he said. “I would have thought that any cats that far east, with all the pet, farm and feral cats around, would be much more obviously hybridised.”

Dr Heatherington’s comments were echoed by Steve Piper of the Scottish Wildcat Association. “Not a bad looking cat at all, very nice tail, probably the best we've had an eye witness photo of in the east Highlands actually, I'm surprised at the location but pleased too!”

They may look like ordinary domestic cats, but Scottish Wildcats can be distinguished by their distinctive markings. The wildcat is usually broader and more muscular. The face and jaws, in particular, are wider as seen in this picture. But perhaps the most obvious distinguishing mark is the blunt striped tail, which ends in a black tip, as can be seen from the photo.

The biggest danger to the wildcat population is interbreeding with domestic cats, so, not surprisingly, wildlife authorities are keen that cat owners in rural areas neuter both male and female cats if they are allowed to roam in the wilds.

Scottish Wildcat tail
© K McEwen All rights reserved

Make no mistake, despite the tabby cat looks, these animals are wild. Said to be untameable they avoid human contact of any sort. But, if cornered they will fight, ferociously.

Scottish Wildcat Association

Highland Tiger
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