Tayside and Central Scotland

Strays trapped to stop wildcat interbreeding in Angus

Wildcat Image copyright RSPB Scotland

A stray cat hunt is under way in Angus after they were found to be interbreeding with the Scottish wildcat.

A team of trappers has been recruited to catch the feral animals in cages and take them to a vet for neutering.

It is hoped that this will prevent "hybrid" wildcat varieties multiplying.

Dr Roo Campbell, from Scottish Wildcat Action, said mating with domestic cats could diminish the wildcat's ability to survive in the wild.

The pilot scheme in the Angus Glens around the town of Kirriemuir will cost up to £20,000 but, if successful, it could be rolled out across parts of the Highlands.

Once found all over Britain, wildcat numbers are dwindling and the species is now restricted to an area north of Scotland's central belt.

They are about 1kg heavier than the domestic cat, with distinctive stripes and large, bushy tail.

Dr Campbell said:"We have known or suspected for years that Scottish wildcats were interbreeding with domestic cats.

"Over time, these hybrid cats living in the wild become less and less wild. They become less well-adapted to their natural environment. It makes them 'soft'."

Dozens of traps will be set within the target area.

The contract guidelines allow for lures like tinned cat food to be used to attract the cat into the cage.

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