Scotland’s wild animals have been recorded taking thousands of “selfies” by triggering cameras designed to photograph wildcats.
The cameras, which are set off by a combination of heat and motion, were set up to capture evidence of the Scotland’s only native cat species, whose numbers are feared to be perilously low.
The Scottish Wildcat Action project (SWA) said it recorded at least 19 previously unseen wildcats – but that the cameras were also set off by more than 20 other species ranging from roe and red deer to wood mice. Other wildlife caught on camera included badgers, pine martens, brown and mountain hares, red squirrels, rabbits, stoats and weasels, foxes, buzzards and a straying raccoon.
Project officer Emma Rawling said: “The aim was to capture the Scottish wildcat on camera, but we certainly got lots of amazing images of other species.
“There were some beautiful and very funny images of badgers scratching their tummies, red deer and mountain hares posing in front of the camera, and stoats swinging from the bait.
“Wood mice were very frequent visitors and they, along with rabbits, are important prey species for wildcats, so that was a good incidental discovery.”
The Scottish wildcat is one of Europe’s most endangered mammals. Some experts fear there may be as few as 35 pure bred individuals left north of the Central Belt.
Some 347 trail cameras were set up across 620 square miles of countryside in an effort to identify individual wildcats. Project staff had to sift through more than 200,000 pictures triggered by wildlife in the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, Moray and the Angus glens.
The pictures also revealed how badgers and pine martens stole food bait, including quail and partridge and pheasant wings intended to lure the elusive wildcats.
Ms Rawling added: “The bait was chosen to resemble the wildcats’ natural food. But the badgers, in particular, were very naughty. They can be seen stealing the bait and, in some cases, the entire post with the bait attached.”