Wildcats In England And Wales
Earlier this year, Kent and Devon based charity Wildwood Trust announced their plan to reintroduce European wildcats to England.
Wildcats are similar in size to domestic cats but slightly heavier. They have a tabby coat pattern and a bushy tail. They are currently one of the UK’s rarest mammals. They usually live in forests within reach of open grassland.
They haven’t existed in most parts of the UK for over 200 years, partly due to hunting and partly due to their preferred habitats being destroyed.
Today the UK population of wildcats dwells in the Scottish Highlands. However with numbers as few as 300 they are in danger. One of the issues they face is that they breed with domestic cats so that their offspring is a hybrid rather than being pure wildcat.
Bred in captivity
The Wildwood Trust think that reintroducing the wildcat to England and Wales will help bolster numbers and help sustain the species within the UK. They are building breeding enclosures at their sites within Kent and Devon. Kittens will be reared in captivity but away from humans, with the mindset that they will then be suitable for release to the wild. The University of Exeter is involved in finding locations for the cats release.
One reason that conservationists are keen on the idea of bringing back the wildcat to England and Wales is because of it being a predator. There aren’t many predators within the UK, so it is desirable to retain the ones we have so as to keep control on wild rabbit and rodent populations.