Partners unite to save the wildcat

More than 30 land management, government and environmental charities are behind the recently launched Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan.

The wildcat is the last surviving native member of the cat family to be found in the wild in Britain. It is one of the most rare, elusive and enigmatic of our carnivores. Have a look at this rare clip of a wildcat caught on a hidden wildlife camera.

The Scottish wildcat was persecuted for centuries and by around 1914, was believed to be confined to the north and west of Scotland. A reduction in persecution after the First World War allowed the species to recolonise parts of its former range, but it is still in dire need of our help.

©Lorne Gill/SNH

Setting up a wildlife camera © Lorne Gill/SNH

This is what the Wildcat Action Plan is all about. There are three principal elements to the Plan. The first priority is to find our best wildcat populations (both in appearance and genetic ancestry).  We will focus on areas where we have good evidence of wildcats.

We may find that all our wildcats have some degree of shared ancestry with domestic cats.  Domestic cats have after all been in Great Britain for more than 2000 years. Nevertheless, the partnership behind the plan agrees that these distinct wild cats, even if not genetically ‘pure’, are worthy of protection.

Close-up of a Wildcat killed on a road. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Close-up of a Wildcat killed on a road. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Breeding for reintroduction is a key part of the plan.  The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, The Aspinall Foundation and others are already planning how best this can be done over the next six years.

The third element in the plan is working with people who can help the wildcat.  This will include talking to cat owners about the risks their pets can pose to wildcats. The main threat is now considered to be from hybridisation with domestic cats and existing hybrids.

Hybridisation with domestic cats is a threat to the wildcat. © Lorne Gill/SNH

Hybridisation with domestic cats is a threat to the wildcat. © Lorne Gill/SNH

In important wildcat areas, we will trap, neuter and vaccinate feral cats and hybrids.  We will also work with land managers to reduce the risk to wildcats from land management activities, particularly legitimate predator control.

You can find out more about the Scottish Wildcat on our website, where you can also download for free our Naturally Scottish – Wildcats booklet and read the full Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan.

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