Bonnie Scotland attracts many foreign settlers, but these are some of our most unlikely immigrants.
We’re not talking about people – we’re talking animals!
1. Great white sharks
No, really! As great white sharks move further away from their traditional habitats, experts widely agree that seal colonies and the Gulf Stream may entice the ‘white death’ to join the 20 other shark species already found in Scottish waters. Before you cancel your West Coast trip, sightings – and there have been several, including one close encounter by two marine biologists kayaking in the Hebrides – remain rare…
It came as quite a shock to the residents of one island in Orkney when a young male walrus was spotted on their beach near Ronaldsay. In theory, Orkney should be well beyond the range of the creature, used to spending its time in the frozen ice of the North Pole. Nevertheless the gentle giant seemed to be in good health and thoroughly appreciating being the centre of attention.
A North American native, one vagabond raccoon has made a bid for freedom and is currently at large, roaming about the Highlands near Garve. The animal was sighted when it set of a camera trap designed to track wildcats. Scottish Natural Heritage is currently searching hard for the mischievous raccoon and members of the public are encouraged to report anything they see.
4. Wild Boar
Not seen in Scotland for over 400 years, in 2009 some wild boar imported from France were released into the Highlands. Introduced in order to cut back bracken and help native trees – including Scots pine, rowan, aspen and juniper – grow, the boar have in fact done so well many gamekeepers now see them as a nuisance.
Native to America, Indonesia and the Philippines, many skunks are kept in the UK as pets. Skunks can adapt surprisingly well to the Scottish climate, and can find food very easily when not hibernating in the winter. Although there have been captures in Northern England and sightings this side of the Border, there is yet to be a confirmed smelly invader.
Perhaps still finding the climate a little cold, the colony of wallabies on Loch Lomond’s Inchconnachan Island is now well established. Introduced as a novelty in the 1940s by Lady Colquhoun it is one of the only places outside of Australia to have a viable colony.
7. Big Cats
The debate of big cats in Scotland has been going on for years; a hill walker’s claims or blurry photographs have done little to persuade many people. However, PC Chris Swallow, who was based at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, managed to capture some footage of a large cat-like animal in 2009, just one of many possible big cat sightings across Scotland.
William, the four-foot-long Anaconda and amateur escape artist, has been returned to captivity after escaping, presumably to see the sights in Edinburgh. Street sweeper Gordon Fraser discovered the snake at West Pilton Bank before calling the Scottish SPCA to safely remove and care for William at their rescue centre.
9. Leather Back Turtles
Giant leatherback turtles are now regularly being seen venturing into Scottish waters along the West Coast, their numbers increasing year on year. The critically endangered animal swims from its home in the Caribbean to munch on Scotland’s ready supply of jellyfish. The leatherback is the largest of all turtle species and can weigh almost three quarters of a tonne.
Scotland, it seems, has become a fertile breeding ground for parakeet parrots. With extensive sightings across the nation these brightly coloured birds seem very out of place as they sweep through Scottish rain and snow. Apparently released unwittingly by a disgruntled Glasgow pet owner, these vivid birds certainly brighten up bird feeders across Scotland.
(This feature was originally published in 2016)