Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Wilderness Wildcats

By Mike Tomkies

I didn't really know anything about the wildcats of the England, Scotland and Wales. I didn't even know there were wildcats or what a wildcat was exactly. Turns out the wildcat is a small cat, about the same size as the domesticated house cat, but with a much different temperament. They truly are "wild cats" and cannot be tamed, unlike many large wild cats, such as tigers and lions. They are native to Europe but are rare.
Wildcats have pretty disappeared from England and Wales but can still be found in the more remote areas of Scotland. Tomkies was given two small wildcat kittens who had either lost their mother or been abandoned by her. Tomkies lived in such an isolated area of Scotland that there were no roads leading to his house, it could only be reached by boat. Being a naturalist, and not really knowing much about wildcats, Tomkies felt the two kittens would make interesting study subjects. He named them Cleo and Patra and built pens for them and raised them on meat and milk. In time he also acquired a rather elderly male wildcat, a refugee from a zoo, and was able to successfully breed him with one of the females who produced two kittens, Fred and Mia. Eventually, he released all the wildcats back into the wild, in the fullness of time.

This was quite an interesting read, although at one point it became a bit repetitious as he described his routine of giving the wildcats some freedom, while continuing to feed them, then capturing them and once again placing them in pens. He was worried that they couldn't make it on their own, but they proved him wrong. Even the elderly male who had spent most his life in a zoo eventually became a skilled and successful hunter. But besides the wildcats, this book is an interesting glimpse of a life lived in the back country, without electricity or central heating, just a man and his dog and a some wildcats.

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