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Scotland's Pixelated Populations

23 September 2020


Scotland is home to some of the most beautiful wildlife anywhere in the world. However, some of the unique animals who call places like the mountains of Aviemore home are under serious threat, with numbers dwindling rapidly.

Inspired by the incredible work of the World Wildlife Fund, we wanted to highlight some of the region’s most endangered animals, by creating a pixelated image of the animals at risk, with the image edited to show as many pixels as there are animals left in the wild in Scotland.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle - Pixelated Populations

A Golden Eagle represented as ~880 pixels - the total number in the wild remaining in the UK before extinction

How many Golden eagles are there in Scotland? 

440 (pairs) left in the UK, the vast majority of that number being in Scotland, although there are also some nesting in Northern Ireland[1] [6] [18]. Precise numbers for the amount of Golden Eagles currently nesting in Scotland are diverse.  A 2015 study by Scotland’s Nature Agency suggested there were 508[7] pairs native to Scotland, whilst the Scottish Raptor Society reported there were just over 400[8] in total.

Where can I see Golden Eagles in Scotland?

Despite fully mature Golden Eagles growing to have a wingspan over 2 metres, sightings of are incredibly rare, but they can be most commonly found around moorlands and mountains [2][6], like the Cairngorms near Aviemore, and in greater numbers in the North and West of the country[9].

Why are Golden Eagles under threat?

A combination of dwindling prey available for the Golden Eagle to hunt, along with illegal persecution, are the main threats to the Golden Eagle. Golden Eagles are a protected species, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

The Wildlife Trust work closely with landowners and farmers to ensure Golden Eagles and other wildlife gets the protection it needs, as well as promoting wildlife-friendly practices. Their goal is to create networks of natural habitats that both Golden Eagles and the general population will also benefit from. Find out how you can help at the Wildlife Trust website.

Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose Dolphins - Pixelated Populations

A pair of Bottlenose Dolphins represented as ~200 pixels - the total number remaining in the wild before extinction

How many Bottlenose Dolphins are there in Scotland?

200 [1]. Due to the nomadic nature of many Bottlenose Dolphins, tracking exact figures is difficult, leading to discrepancies in data. Whale and Dolphin Conservation suggest that the largest resident group of Dolphins numbers around 190, while there are two further groups totalling 45[14]. The National Biodiversity network further reports that the approximately 200 Bottlenose Dolphins call the Coastal seas near Scotland home[15].

Where can I see Bottlenose Dolphins in Scotland?

Easily recognisable, Bottlenose Dolphins can grow up to 4 metres in length, making spotting them easier when they come to the surface of Moray Firth, off the North East of Scotland.

Why are Bottlenose Dolphins under threat?

Pollution in the waters they swim in is one of the key reasons why the number of Bottlenose Dolphins has declined so greatly, although depletion of fish stock, fishing nets and boat strikes are also dangers impacting their numbers.

The Scottish Dolphin Centre is committed to ensuring greater protection for all Whales and Dolphins found around the coast of Scotland, including the Bottlenose. Find out more about the important work they do on their website.

Wildcat

Wildcats - Pixelated Populations

A Wildcat represented as ~35 pixels - the total number remaining in the wild before extinction

How many Wildcats are there in Scotland?

35 [1] [12] although reports vary. Research from 2014 suggested that there were between 100 and 300[10]  Wildcats in Scotland at that point, while a NatureScot report suggested there could be as many as 200[11], although the body acknowledged that this number is only an estimate, with accuracy being made more difficult because of hybridisation.

Where can I see Wildcats in Scotland?

As adults, Wildcats can weigh up to 7 kilograms - much larger than a domestic cat. Despite this, sightings are rare, and they can only usually be found in the most remote and wildest parts of the country.

Why are Wildcats under threat?

A shrinking habitat thanks to human activity had seen the number of Wildcats reduce significantly in Scotland. Many are also shot and snared each year (despite being protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) which impacts numbers, as does hybridisation with domestic cats.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland work towards the protection of Wildcats in Scotland, ensuring ours is not the first generation who lives in a country without what they dub The Highland Tiger. Find out what you can do to support them on their website.

Capercaillie

Capercaillie - Pixelated Populations

A Capercaillie represented as ~1,114 pixels - the total number remaining in the wild before extinction

How many Capercaillies are there in Scotland?

1,114 [3] [13] The Capercaillie is in such decline that the RSPB have suggested it’s one of the countries most endangered birds[13].

Where can I see Capercaillies in Scotland?

With mature males weighing over 4 kilograms [5] the Capercaillie is Scotland’s largest game bird. Despite this, spotting them is relatively rare, in part owing to their muted grey and reddish-brown colouring. Males can have flashes of turquoise blue around their breast and neck, and bright red around their eyes – all show to attract females during mating season. Capercaillies can mostly be found in the pine woods in the North of Scotland.

Why are Capercaillies under threat?

All Capercaillies in Scotland are actually from Swedish stock, as the birds originally native to the country became extinct in 1785. Now, the Capercaillie is under threat again, its numbers dropping from 2,200 20 years ago to just 1,114 today, with climate change and wildlife control measures such as deer fences the main culprits.

The Cairngorms Capercaillie Project has been delivering solutions to the reduction of the bird by working with landowners and local agencies. They’re now calling on local communities to help save this majestic bird from becoming extinct all over again. Find out how you can help by visiting their website.

Pine Marten

Pine Marten - Pixelated Populations

A Pine Marten represented as ~3,700 pixels - the total number remaining in the wild before extinction

How many Pine Martens are there in Scotland?

3,700 [3] [16]. NatureScot report that the Pine Marten’s numbers have made a slight recovery following a dramatic decline, however they remain rare[16]. Elsewhere, it’s reported that the Pine Martin is still on the brink of extinction in other areas of in the UK[17].

Where can I see Pine Martens in Scotland?

Pine Martens can be found throughout the woodlands of Scotland. However, spotting one is never easy, as their excellent climbing skills and agile movement make them elusive. They tend to make their homes in old bird’s nests, squirrel dreys, or hollow trees.

Why are Pine Martens under threat?

Predators are the greatest threat to Pine Martens (predominantly foxes), although fragmentation of their natural habitat [1] has also resulted in a decline in their numbers.

The Vincent Wildlife Trust work across the UK to monitor and ensure the conservation of Pine Martens. Their work in Scotland focuses on monitoring the Pine Marten population, including their expansion, in conjunction with Scottish National Heritage. Find out more about what they’re doing in Scotland and across the rest of the UK on their website.

Sources

  1. https://www.highlandtitles.com/blog/wildlife-scottish-highlands/
  2. https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/species/golden-eagle/
  3. https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/puffins-capercaille-and-red-squirrels-among-10-endangered-species-of-scottish-wildlife-that-are-at-risk/
  4. http://wild-scotland.org.uk/species/26/puffin/
  5. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/birds/facts-about-capercaillie/
  6. https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/golden-eagle/
  7. https://www.nature.scot/plants-animals-and-fungi/birds/upland-birds/golden-eagle
  8. http://www.scottishraptorstudygroup.org/goldeneagle.html
  9. https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/species/golden-eagle/
  10. http://www.scottishwildcataction.org/about-wildcats
  11. https://www.nature.scot/sites/default/files/2019-02/Wildcat%20in%20Scotland%20-%20Review%20of%20conservation%20status%20and%20activities_1.pdf
  12. https://www.wildcathaven.com/
  13. http://ww2.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/444564-national-survey-fuels-plans-to-help-one-of-scotlands-most-iconic-birds
  14. https://www.wdcs.org/national_regions/scotland/shorewatch/bottlenose_dolphin.php
  15. https://nbn.org.uk/news/bottlenose-dolphin-numbers-scottish-update/
  16. https://www.nature.scot/plants-animals-and-fungi/mammals/land-mammals/pine-marten
  17. https://ptes.org/grants/uk-mammal-projects/pine-marten-recovery-project/
  18. https://hawkandowltrust.org/about-birds-of-prey/golden-eagle

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