Wednesday 29 February 2012

Timid Tigers?

It's been a little while since we promised an update on the wildcat cameras. Although the trail cameras been out for almost two weeks, we still haven't managed to capture even a glimpse of a Highland Tiger or even of any other wildlife so far.

Wildcat (Felis silvestris) image: Michael Gäbler
On the face of it this is a little disappointing as the cameras both appear to be working correctly and the bait that is used to attract in the cats, and which you might assume to be equally as effective towards other animals, remains relatively untouched. However, always looking for a positive, we can at least speculate as to what the absence of any wildlife appearing in front of the cams does tell us. We were hoping to look for cats in suitable habitats within previously unsurveyed locations so we can assume that either: 1) the locations we have the cameras at are beyond any local wildcats' current range; or 2) the mild winter has been beneficial for the wildcats' food supply and they have not needed to move to the edges of their range to seek additional sustenance; or lastly 3) any wildcats that do use the habitat near these locations just haven't been out there, or at least past our cameras in the last few weeks.

Of course, the above is all really just reasoned speculation. The only thing we know 100% for sure is that we have not recorded any pictures of any cats. However it is also important to celebrate the benefits of finding negatives - we all like to see exciting pictures of wildlife in its native habitat but in this case the absence of pictures can be just as significant, giving us information about where wildcats are not to be found and helping us decide where to relocate the camera traps to for a better chance of finding one. Put together, information about presence and absence can contribute to the larger picture of mapping out the range of the wildcat as a species, not just spotting individuals.

So our next move will be to reposition the camera traps. This time a little closer to where we know there have been sightings. If at first you don't succeed...

In the meantime, have a look at the update on the Highland Tiger blog where you can see the results of a more successful camera trapping session.

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