Wildcat kitten found freezing to death has used up one of its nine lives
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Big money efforts to save the Scottish Wildcat have received a small boost thanks to a kind-hearted Strathspey chef.
Pete Macnab discovered a tiny wildcat kit at death's door all alone and freezing in the Huntly's Cave area north of Grantown yesterday.
He initially thought the cute kitten was a domestic cat and posted his discovery on local social media in a bid to reunite the bundle of fluff with its owner.
But Mr Macnab, who is general manager at the Garth Hotel in Grantown, said it has since been confirmed that the kitten is in fact an exceedingly rare Scottish wildcat.
In an update online, he said: "So today we saved the life an endangered species. Needless to say they are unwilling to return the wildcat kitten and it has been passed to the proper authorities.
"The vet said it was in a very poorly state. It was sodden through, could not stand up and in a severe state of distress.
"It had been surrounded by a circle of intimidating nosy sheep when we found it.
"Thanks to everyone for their concern, and the offers of help."
Mr Macnab has revealed that the kitten is a female and has been named Huntleigh in honour of the location she was discovered.
There was plenty of praise for Mr Macnab's actions for saving the life of the little kitten confirmed as a Scottish wildcat by the Cats Protection charity.
Zoe Lyn Gibb posted: "Aw bless. She is a beauty. Well done - that's your good deed for the year I say!"
Caroline Everett stated: "How amazing that it is to go to a good rehab. Fingers crossed she will pull through. I'm sure she will."
A £3.2m project to prevent the species from dying out in the wild is currently taking shape in the strath.
Work is now under way on the Saving Wildcats Conservation Breeding for Release Centre at the Highland Wildlife Park by Kincraig.
The plans comprises 12 breeding units and eight fenced pre-release enclosures on the 2.97 hectares site.
The development will also provide facilities for veterinary care, remote monitoring and training.
Wildcats bred and reared at the site could be released into the strath as early as 2022.
It is hoped the complex will be ready in time to ensure kits reared last year at the park can enter the breeding programme this winter.
There is an unsustainably low population of wildcats now left in the wild and the project has been described as being ‘the only realistic solution to save the species’.
There may be as few as 100 to 300 pure wildcats remaining, and Strathspey is their last stronghold.
Hybridisation with domesticated cats has been one of the main causes of their decline as well as loss of habitat.