Scottish wildcat threat-free region expands

A Scottish wildcat conservation organisation has increased a wildcat threat-free region to 800 miles² in Scotland’s West Highlands.

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Scottish wildcat

Fieldwork completed by the Wildcat Haven project has resulted in 100 domestic cats being neutered over the last 12 months to protect the Scottish wildcat from extinction.

The conservation initiative has added a 300 miles² extension to their threat-free region, which now covers Ardnamurchan, Sunart, Morvern and Moidart.

Wildcat Haven has carried out intensive feral and domestic cat neutering to remove the primary threat to Scottish wildcats; cross-mating or hybridisation with domestic cats.

Chief scientist on the project, Dr Paul O'Donoghue says, “The wildcat is a very capable survivor and prefers to breed with other wildcats, but it’s so outnumbered by domestic cats that hybridisation is inevitable. This means that over a few generations, those wildcat genes are lost.”

By neutering domestic cats the project aims to allow wildcats to begin rebuilding their population.

Wildcat Haven’s first peninsula, 200 miles² Ardnamurchan, hasn't had a report of an intact feral or domestic cat in three years.

The project is now looking to expand as far as Fort William and open up further Wildcat Haven regions in the West Highlands.

“800 miles² can home around 100 true Scottish wildcats, but our aim is a 7000 mile² threat-free area that could hold a sustainable population,’’ says O’Donoghue.

Find out more about Wildcat Haven

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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