Wildcat

Scientific Name: 

Felis sylvestris

Synonyms: 

Scottish Wildcat

Description

Britain's only native cat. They look very similar to domestic tabby cats but are much larger, have a stockier build and a thick bushy tail, which has 3-5 broad black bands of fur and a rounded black tip. The colour of their coat varies from greyish to yellowish-brown. They have thick white whiskers.

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Weight: 

Adult males average 5kg; females 4kg.

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Lifespan: 

Up to 12 years though most die much younger.

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Distribution: 

Wildcats are confined to Scotland, north of Glasgow and Edinburgh, but are absent from the Scottish Islands. Live mainly in upland areas.

Habitat: 

Edges of forests were they meet mountains, moorlands and rough pastures. They dislike high mountain areas, exposed coasts and fertile lowlands with intensive farming.

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Reproduction: 

Wildcats usually mate in February and females have a single litter of 3-4 kittens some time between April & September. The kittens are born blind and weigh about 120-165g each. They are independent within 5 months and after 10 months they are almost fully grown and sexually mature.

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Predators: 

Foxes, stoats and pine martens will sometimes take kittens. Golden Eagles have been known to take them. Adults are also killed on the roads or shot for pest control.

Status: 

Wildcats used to be found throughout mainland Britain (they have never occurred in Ireland) but, due to persecution and clearance of wooded land, have declined over several centuries. Inter-breeding with domestic cats gone wild (known as feral cats) poses one of the biggest threats to the wildcats' survival in Britain by changing the species' genetic identity. Wildcats are also at risk from diseases of domestic cats such as feline leukaemia. The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981 and 1988) now gives strict legal protection to wildcats and their dens; it is an offence to take or kill one except under licence. Despite this protection, illegal trapping and shooting are still major causes of death of wildcats. Others die in road traffic accidents and wildcats are still at risk from illegal poisoning. A very hard species to study, at best their current status can be classed as stable/unknown.

Did You Know?: 

In the 16th century, when Britain was mostly covered by forests, wildcats were found all over the country but by 1850, they were extinct throughout most of England and the last ones were killed in Durham and Northumberland in the 1852. The Wildcat gets its scientific name from: felids, meaning feline or cat-like, and Silvestre's, meaning sylvan, wood-like, or 'of the forest'.

Additional Notes: 

Footprint Description: 

Wildcat tracks consist of 4 digital pads, arched round a large 3 lobed interdigital pad. No claw marks are usually found, but are sometimes apparent where an animal has jumped, as is the proximal pad. Very similar in appearance to that of domestic Cat, but larger, and the print of a Wildcat is longer than it is wide, whereas a domestic cat print is wider than it is long.

Track Description: 

Wild Cat kills are typical of cats - bones neatly defleshed without damage. Often the prey is decapitated. Smaller prey may be partially buried.

Droppings Description: 

Droppings are cylindrical, with tapered, pointed ends and twisted in form. Approx. 4-8cm long, with a diameter of approx. 1.5cm.Deposited in regular latrines, not buried like a domestic cat, and also at random in prominent positions such as on boulders. Very musty smell when fresh.

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Species: 

F. silvestris

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