AN ancient Scottish hill fort, with walls which have remained unbreached for nearly 2,000 years, is under siege - from an army of rabbits.
The rich archaeological treasures within the ramparts of Brown Caterthun Fort, in Angus, are threatened by the rapidly expanding rodent population.
Many of the fort's original walls, some of which are up to two metres high and covered in grass and heather, are now riddled with burrows and vital clues to structure's age and use are being lost.
Concern is so great that Historic Scotland, which looks after the Iron Age fort - one of the largest examples left in Scotland - has employed a troop of archaeologists to combat the menace.
The organisation has given a group of 40 archaeology students from Edinburgh University a [pounds sterling]40,000 grant to join forces on an eight-week study and research trip to excavate and record the whole site a few miles from Brechin.
Historic Scotland Inspector Dr Ian Armit said: `The rabbits are really causing a very big problem. They are effectively destroying the archaeology of this exceptionally important site. What we are doing now, is to rescue as much information about the site as we can in the short term, before we decide how to manage the size of the rabbit population in the future to preserve the fort.'
Dr Armit said Brown Caterthun, which sits on top of a very exposed hill, was only one of a number of important sites in the area experiencing problems, including nearby White Caterthun Fort.
Rabbits are officially classed as a pest, and numbers have risen dramatically in Angus over recent years. …