A third Scottish wildcat kitten has been rescued in Aberdeenshire by conservation group Wildcat Haven.
It was caught in a live trap by a farmer investigating the loss of several chickens and immediately passed onto Wildcat Haven.
There was no sign of a mother near the location and the young kitten appeared to have been alone for a while, scavenging food wherever it could find any; a chicken coop proving just too tempting for a cat with little or no ability to hunt wild food. A vet check confirmed that it was underweight, but otherwise healthy.
Steve Sleigh of Wildcat Haven, who carried out the rescue, said: ‘It was incredibly exciting when I got the call to investigate the new kitten. I had no idea what to expect, but as soon as I saw her, I knew she was a wildcat kitten with a thick blunt tail, perfect dorsal stripe marking and ferocious personality.
‘She was snarling and spitting as soon as I went near, but looked very small for her age, she clearly needed to get to a vet straight away.’
The kitten is now recuperating and eating very well at a purpose built rescue centre in the West Highlands set up with sponsors Highland Titles. The remote location includes some of the largest enclosures of their kind of small cats where they have very limited exposure to humans so that they can return to the wild and embrace a typically independent wildcat lifestyle.
Wildcat Haven are currently surveying several locations for the release of the kitten; places remote from humans so as to avoid any risk of conflict or persecution. She will spend winter at the centre and be released back into the wild in spring as the weather warms and brings plenty of natural prey for her. Similar sites are being investigated for the other two rescue kittens, that gained worldwide attention in summer.
Dr Paul O’Donoghue, Chief Scientific Advisor for Wildcat Haven, added: ‘These three kittens represent almost ten percent of the current worst-case population estimate, emphasising their importance as a lifeline for the species in the wild. We’re very lucky to have this incredible rescue centre from Highland Titles to give them all a real chance at a long life in the wild.
‘We’re reluctant captors and there’s no question that these kittens will all return to the wild; we hope the male may bond with the new kitten so that they could be released into adjoining territories, enhancing the chances of them breeding healthy new kittens out in the wild, where these cats belong.’