- Wildcat project 2021-2023
- Completed projects
Monitoring and conservation of the wildcat in Switzerland 2015-2018
The European wildcat Felis silvestris is a protected species. Wildcats are cryptic and solitary inhabitants of forests. The size of their home ranges depends on resources such as prey availability, availability of resting sites but also on the season. In Switzerland, the wildcat was widely distributed over the Swiss plateau and the Jura Mountains. After the 19th century, its occurrence was restricted to the Jura Mountains. It is unclear, if the wildcat disappeared completely during the 20th century in the Jura Mountains, or if it remained as a residual population.
The status of the wildcat in Switzerland has, for the first time, been assessed in recent years. It is suspected that some hundred individuals live predominantly in the Jura Mountains. Today, the wildcat is again regularly observed in the Swiss Jura Mountains. The wildcat is spreading, and appears to also slowly recolonise the Swiss plateau. The exact distribution and the population dynamic of the wild cat in Switzerland are unknown. There is no established long-term monitoring, and reports of sight observations are not reliable because of the risk of confusion with similar looking domestic cats.
The deterministic lynx camera trapping monitoring largely covers the Swiss Jura Mountains. Thereby many “wildcats” get pictured.
The goal of the project was the development of a wildcat monitoring with camera traps synergetic to the lynx monitoring in the Jura to determine the abundance of the wildcat population.
A Master thesis from 2010 has shown that even wildcat experts have difficulties to distinguish with certainty wildcats and domestic cats on pictures. A phenotypical criteria catalogue will be established for the wildcat in the Swiss Jura with the help of the results from this pilot study.
During the Lynx monitoring in the Jura (60 nights/winter, 50-60 locations each with two camera traps on an area of around 600-700 km²) camera trap locations will be installed in a part of the reference area in a higher density with a focus on wildcats. Each of these wildcat locations will in addition to two white flash camera traps, be equipped with a lure stick. These lure sticks (coarse wooden post) are sprayed with valerian, to attract wildcats. By rubbing against the sticks, wildcats leave hair samples behind. These can be used for later genetic analyses. Wildcats which were identified on camera trap pictures based on their phenotype, provide important information on the distribution of the species and interactions with domestic cats in the study area. For wildcats which were pictured several times and which are individually identifiable, their winter home ranges as well as the density and abundance of the wildcat population were estimated by (spatial) capture-recapture models.
Wildcat grid in the Northern Jura (black square: 10 x 10 km grid, blue: lynx reference area, white dots: lynx locations, red dots: wildcat locations.).
RESULTS AND PUBLICATIONS
In the course of this project
- Optimal parameters (e.g. size and number of locations) for a wildcat reference area within the lynx reference area were identified;
- Criteria for the phenotypical identification of wildcats from the Jura by means of camera trap pictures were established;
- Methods and criteria for the individual identification of wildcats were established; and
- The wildcat’s abundance and density were calculated.
The results were published in the following report:
The pilot project for the wildcat monitoring is taking place in parallel to the respective deterministic lynx monitoring in the Jura in agreement with the cantons and the local game wardens. The project is financially supported by a private foundation which supports nature conservation subjects.
Project duration: 2015-2018
Study area: Jura, Schweiz
Contact KORA: Fridolin Zimmermann, Florin Kunz, Lea Maronde