Wildcats at Clashindarroch
The Scottish wildcat is one of our best loved native mammals. Breeding with pets and feral cats threatens numbers; as does our presence in wild places. There's concern that forestry adds to that threat. Clashindarroch in Aberdeenshire shows how a working forest can remain a stronghold for wildcats.
A forest that works for people and wildcats
Like many of our forests, Clashindarroch is a sustainable working forest where we fell a yearly timber crop, restocking as we go. But it's also where wildcats hunt and breed. So how does this work, given the animals’ protected status?
We cut timber across around 90 hectares. That's only 1.3% of the forest. Most of it is left untouched, so wildcats can always find quiet areas. They use ‘edge habitats’ - where trees are felled, or recently replanted – to move more easily around the forest. These sites attract the voles they love to eat. Far from reducing habitats, forestry can create new hunting grounds.
We adjust work plans at Clashindarroch if there is a risk of impacting the wildcats. We'll leave an area during breeding season or reschedule events. Camera traps and GPS tagging helps us track their movements. This helps us make better conservation decisions.
A commitment to protect endangered species
We're committed to wildcat protection at Forestry and Land Scotland. We work with experts, like the partners in Scottish Wildcat Action (now known as Saving Wildcats) and our own specialists. Chris Nixon, our Environment Manager, helps us work with minimal disruption. Checks from the environmental teams are vital, so we do detailed surveys to check for wildcats. We work with field ecologists, whose expertise and camera data are vital to planning.
Good practice at Clashindarroch
Endangered wildcats must be protected, and industry has to adapt. Clashindarroch has brought insights into how commercial work can coincide with conservation. Others can learn from our work, as our safeguards are adding to best-practice policy.
Dr Ruairidh Campbell, NatureScot Mammal Advisor and formerly a Priority Areas Project Manager for the multi-agency partnership to save Scottish wildcats, has cited Clashindarroch as an example of sophisticated wildlife protection. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland also supports our work on threatened species like wildcats and capercaillie.