The most unusual animals discovered in Scotland

From polar bears to big cats, a broad range of unexpected and bizarre animals have been found nationwide over the years.

Felicity the Puma was a known attraction in Inverness after her capture in 1980. Image: Scotcats
Felicity the Puma was a known attraction in Inverness after her capture in 1980. Image: Scotcats


Debates over whether or not feral cats exist in the UK were stoked up again in 1980 with the capturing of a wild puma in Cannich, Inverness-shire. Subsequently named Felicity, the puma was moved to Kincraig’s Highland Wildlife Park where she was put on show.

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After the arthritic cat died in 1985, she was stuffed and displayed in Inverness Art Gallery and Museum. Since the Felicity case, big cat spottings have occurred in Easter Ross, Kincraig and Tain within the last five years alone.

Wild Puma (Felis concolor patagonica) in Southern Chile.


Usually found at the murky depths of 1400 metres below sea level, the “Sofa shark” gets its nickname from its flabby, couch-resembling features. Earlier this year, an example of the invertebrate-eating animal was found off the isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

The sighting was returned to the water after being weighed and measured by the Scottish Shark Tagging Programme. This year’s discovery is only the second time that a False Catshark has been discovered in Scottish waters, after a smaller 25kg example was caught in the same area in 2000.


This female "Sofa shark", or False Catshark, was discovered off St Kilda earlier this year. Picture: HeMedia

Visitors to Peterhead’s Arbuthnot Museum and Gallery in the North-east of Scotland can learn about the town’s pivotal role in the 19th century whale blubber trade, as well as view a stuffed polar bear on show there.

Though no official explanation has been given as to how the bear made its way to Peterhead, with the most likely theory is that a returning whaling ship carried the furry cargo on its return to Scotland. From the late 1790s until the 1860s, Peterhead was at the centre of the United Kingdom’s whaling fleet and was briefly Europe’s main fishing port. As the trade declined due to excessive hunting, whalers turned to seal clubbing and the capture of exotic animals to make money.

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A stuffed polar bear like this one can be found in Peterhead's Arbuthnot Museum, as a likely result of the town's famous whaling expeditions in the 18th and 19th centuries. Image: Lenathehyena

Last year saw no less than four Giant Leatherback Turtles turn up dead off the coast of the UK, with a 350kg example found tangled in fishing nets near Dunbar, East Lothian. All four examples of the reptile were found in October, with marine biologists investigating why such a high number of incidents were recorded in such a short space of time.

Normally found in tropical and sub-tropical waters, the turtle is endangered and is the largest of its species worldwide.


A quarry in Ballachulish, Lochaber is not the natural habitat for the North American SIgnal Crayfish, yet in 2012 several were found there with no ready explanation for alarmed conservationists.

Four Giant Leatherback Turtles were found off the coast of Scotland last year, with all examples sadly having passed away before their discovery. Image: Hemedia

As the species is a notorious predator, a collaboration between Highland Council, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage saw just under £80,000 raised to eradicate the Ballachulish crayfish. Such is the danger posed by the fish to native frogs, fish and insects, it is illegal in the UK for an individual or organisation to capture, keep or transport the animal without a licence.

The North American Signal Crayfish found in Ballachulish Quarry in 2012 were most likely the result of an illegal human introduction of the species. Image: David Perez