A Scottish wildcat and her cub - among the rarest animals on earth - have been caught on camera.
The animals were just yards from the home of a crofter near Cornhill, a village near Banff in Aberdeenshire. He and his wife are keeping their identities and location secret because the wildcat is a protected species.
The crofter said: "We have had astonishing sightings in recent days, even seeing them playing at one point. We are in no doubt that they are wildcats. The kitten is about the size of an adult domestic cat, and you would not want the mother sitting on your lap.
"I think if you were confronted by it, you would turn around and walk the other way. To see a mother and kitten together is extremely rare. We believe there may be other kittens nearby, and she has been teaching this young one to hunt.
"We have watched the mother hunting and killing big rabbits and taking them into a nearby overgrown area, and we have also seen what we think is the father on his own.
"We have sighted large cats at this time of year from our house for the past four years. Initially we thought we were seeing a wild big cat, but these are most definitely wildcats. There is even a possibility that a big cat and a wildcat could have bred."
The mother and kitten were photographed about 100 yards from the Cornhill couple's house, and they also managed to get video footage.
"I have borrowed a hide so that I can get closer, in the hope that I can take even sharper pictures," added the crofter. "Photographs of them are very rare."
The Scottish wildcat is the UK's last large mammal predator. Although it my look similar to a domestic cat, there are a number of key differences that make the Scottish wildcat stand out. They are about 50% larger than a regular domestic cat, have thick striped coats and wider jaws and a thick ringed tail.
They are extremely powerful and fast, capable of reaching 30mph, but there are so few of them left that they are regarded as one of the UK's most endangered species.
The Cairngorm Wildcat Project has been set up to safeguard the surviving wildcat population. It is headed up by Dr David Hetherington, who has been sent pictures of the animals photographed near Cornhill.
He said: "It is difficult to say from the angle and clarity of the pictures whether they are definitely wildcats. I would need to see their coat markings in more detail.
"We are getting reports of wildcats in agricultural landscapes in Aberdeenshire, indicating that they are moving into areas where they are not normally found. It would be very exciting if these Cornhill animals were wildcats, but they may also be hybrids between wildcats and domestic or feral cats.
"Hybrids are a real threat to the future of the pure Scottish wildcat, apart from their limited numbers, and that is why we are keen that people living in rural areas get their farm and domestic cats neutered, to prevent any cross-breeding."
It is thought that there could be fewer than 400 wildcats remaining in the Highlands, making them rarer than Bengal tigers. Experts fear they are on the brink of extinction.
If the Cornhill sighting is verified, it would back up reports that the cats are extending out to agricultural areas of Aberdeenshire from their more common habitat around the Cairngorms.