Conservation group Wildcat Haven plans to reintroduce wildcats into the Scottish-English border region as part of its British Wildcat Project.
Focusing first on Galloway in the south west of Scotland, the population will be encouraged to spread across Galloway, Borders, Cumbria and Northumberland, creating a new British wildcat population group. This brings the prospect of wildcats being present in England for the first time in 300 years after it was wiped out as a result of human persecution and habitat loss.
“The British ecology needs a wildcat in it,” explained Dr Paul O’Donoghue, chief scientific advisor with Wildcat Haven, “and wildcats fit in perfectly, helping to control species like rabbit and actively avoiding conflict with humans.
Survey and research work has begun in Galloway Forest, which offers a mixture of natural and commercial forestry connectivity all the way across the border to Kielder Forest in Northumberland.
“We’ve seen that wildcats can really thrive in man-made forests, and an important part of our research is understanding how we can create a sustainable population in this environment.
“The Galloway-Northumberland border region is often overlooked but this is one of the most well connected and diverse habitats in the UK, and certainly rivals the Highlands for biodiversity potential.”
The plan has landowner support coming from Gresham House Forestry, one of the largest owners of forestry in the UK and the Galloway region.