GWCT National Gamebag Census & Tracking Mammals Partnership

Wildcat Felis silvestris

Taxonomy: Class: Mammalia; Order: Carnivora; Family: Felidae

Description

Wildcat photo
Wildcat © Laurie Campbell

The wildcat is Britain's only remaining native cat species. It is similar to a domestic tabby but larger, stockier and with a black-banded bushy tail. It is restricted to Scotland, where it inhabits the forested margins of moorland. It is under severe threat from hybridisation with feral cats and disease. The animal was routinely culled to reduce predation on game, but it was protected in 1988 under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. The wildcat has been recorded by the NGC only between 1971 and 1987.

Further information:
Mammal Society website wildcat page.

Conservation status and legislation

Status:
UK: Native. Priority species under the UK Biodoversity Action Plan
World: Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Legislation:
 
Logo NBN Gateway © Crown Copyright. All rights reserved NERC 100017897 2004
Source: National Biodiversity Network and its data providers, who bear
no responsibility for interpretation of the 10x10-km grid map
 

Distribution and abundance

In the UK, the wildcat is restricted to central and northern Scotland, and is absent from the Scottish islands. Reports of wildcats further south probably refer to feral cats, although unofficial releases cannot be ruled out.

Estimates of wildcat abundance (numbers of individuals in the spring) across the UK, from Harris et al. (1995):

United Kingdom 3,500
England 0
Scotland 3,500
Wales 0
N Ireland 0

Recent trends from the National Gamebag Census

United Kingdom

Index of bag density from 1971 to 1987 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Wildcat trend United Kingdom

Data were available only for the period 1971-1987, during which there was no significant trend in the bag index. A total of 274 wildcats were recorded by the NGC from 40 shooting estates in central, eastern and north-eastern Scotland in 1984-1985 (Easterbee et al. 1991).

Change in wildcat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
United Kingdom 51 1971 1987 125
-17 to 290
no data no data

* significant at P < 0.05

England

There are too few bag records of wildcat to produce an index graph. Wildcat trend England

 

There are too few bag records of wildcat to evaluate rates of change over time

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
England Too few sites

Scotland

Index of bag density from 1971 to 1987 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Wildcat trend Scotland

Data were available only for the period 1971-1987, during which there was no significant trend in the bag index. A total of 274 wildcats were recorded by the NGC from 40 shooting estates in central, eastern and north-eastern Scotland in 1984-1985 (Easterbee et al. 1991).

Change in wildcat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Scotland 51 1971 1987 125
-17 to 290
no data no data

* significant at P < 0.05

Wales

There are too few bag records of wildcat to produce an index graph. Wildcat trend Wales

 

There are too few bag records of wildcat to evaluate rates of change over time

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Wales Too few sites

N Ireland

There are too few bag records of wildcat to produce an index graph. Wildcat trend N Ireland

 

There are too few bag records of wildcat to evaluate rates of change over time

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
N Ireland Too few sites

Environmental zones

Change in wildcat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Environmental zone Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Easterly lowlands (England/Wales) Too few sites
Westerly lowlands (England/Wales) Too few sites
Uplands (England/Wales) Too few sites
Lowlands (Scotland) Too few sites
Intermediate uplands/islands (Scotland) Too few sites
True uplands (Scotland) Too few sites

* significant at P < 0.05

Comparison with BBS mammal data

No comparison with the NGC trend is possible because too few wildcat records are received through the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) organised by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Long-term trend from the National Gamebag Census

There are too few bag records of wildcat to produce a trend starting before 1971.

References and further reading

  • Battersby,J. (2005). UK Mammals: Species Status and Population Trends. Joint Nature Conservation Committee/Tracking Mammals Partnership, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Easterbee,N., Hepburn,I.V. & Jefferies,D.J. (1991). Survey of the Status and distribution of the Wildcat in Scotland, 1983-1987. Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland, Edinburgh.
  • Harris,S., Morris,P., Wray,S. & Yalden,D.W. (1995). A Review of British Mammals: Population Estimates and Conservation Status of British Mammals Other than Cetaceans. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Harris,S. & Yalden,D.W. (2008). Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th edition. Mammal Society, Southampton.
  • Kitchener,A. (1995). The Wildcat. Mammal Society, Southampton.
  • Macdonald,D.W., Daniels,M.J., Driscoll,C., Kitchener,A. & Yamaguchi,N. (2004). The Scottish Wildcat: Analyses for Conservation and an Action Plan. Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford.

This report should be cited as: Aebischer,N.J., Davey,P.D. & Kingdon,N.G. (2011). National Gamebag Census: Mammal Trends to 2009. Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Fordingbridge (http://www.gwct.org.uk/ngcmammals).

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