Monday, 5 November 2018

Highland Tigers !!!

You would think that it would be an easy task to see at least once in your lifetime, each of the native creatures that reside on our relatively small isle.

For me that appears an impossible task, as I think back over this years sightings, its not been great.
Fox, Rabbit, Grey Squirrel, Brown Rat, Wood Mouse, House Mouse, Common Seal, Fallow Deer,  Water Vole and a single sighting of a Hedgehog.

If I recall my wildlife sightings in this country, its not very impressive with  just one live sighting of a Badger, a few sightings of Otter, Grey Seal, Red Deer and Pine Martin all from Scotland, Hare, Mountain Hare, Mole, Weasel, Stoat, Bank Vole, Common Lizard, Adder, Grass Snake, Smooth Snake, Toad, Common Frog, Marsh Frog, Common Newt and various unidentified Bat species.

 There are still many creatures missing from my wanted list, the Scottish Wildcat, the Polecat, creatures I'm pretty sure I'm never going to see.

So  when I discovered a zoological collection dedicated to British wildlife, namely the "British Wildlife Centre" in Surrey, not to far from where I live  I thought I would pay  a visit and check out some of these British wild animals.

Not sure how I would feel about seeing a Fox or Badger in an confined space, but no different than seeing a African Lion in a cage I suppose, I was pleasantly surprised, the enclosures are well designed with the animals welfare taken into consideration, all the animals looked in very good condition and behaving very naturally, the centre's main object is to educate the public, specializing in school visits encouraging children to appreciate and respect our native species.

 My first target came into view, the " Highland Tiger" or Scottish Wildcat, in my head  I was visualizing a thick coated, lip snarling, heavy set cat much larger than the domestic cat we are all familiar with.

I was slightly underwhelmed  by my first look at the Highland Tiger, shows how important it is to see wildlife in the flesh so to speak, to be fair these cats do get a thicker winter coat,  watching the cat move around the enclosure I certainly got  a feel for the cat, all the salient identification points could be picked out, the thick wavy stripes running down the forehead, thick black unbroken stripes on the body, black dorsal stripe ending at the base of the tail, thick blunt tipped tail with distinct black bands.

A short talk by one of the keepers explained how these cats remain unapproachable, cannot be domesticated, and very close to he brink of extinction, they do have a breeding program here and they hope to reintroduce some back to the highlands eventually, watching them chase around the enclosure after food morsels not hard to visualize them in there natural surroundings, certainly not the same thrill as seeing one in the wild, but at least I have seen one. maybe there is hope for a future sighting.

Indicator of the differences between a domestic cat and Wildcat

Most of my Stoat and Weasel sightings have been very fleeting affairs, so it was nice to watch the Stoat and weasel whizzing around there enclosures.

 A good look at the Polecat  was worthwhile and I hope to return sometime this winter to get some better photographs.

Polecat (Phone picture0

Weasel (phone picture)
Otters were very showy in an excellent natural looking enclosure, encompassing a small lake,complete with a Holt.


A great place to visit, with some very informative talks by the 'keepers', nice to see some of our country's more elusive creatures as well as the so called commoner species, observation areas to watch Badgers in their "Sett" and Otters in their " Holt" with plenty of  other photo opportunities,  the chance to watch Pine Martins, Red Squirrels in a walk through aviary type enclosure and some of our other more desirable rodents like the Harvest Mouse, Yellow necked Mouse, all animals difficult to catch up with.

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