In Switzerland, the European wildcat primarily occurs in the Jura mountains. For decades, it was considered to be extinct, but in the last 25 years the species managed a comeback, probably originating from populations in neighbouring France.
The wildcat is adapted to cold winter, but sensitive to long, closed snow cover, which hinders its hunting efforts. Consequently, a wildcat population can fluctuate considerably in secondary mountain ranges like the Jura mountains. The increased frequency of mild winters might benefit the wildcat. There are more and more indications that the species is expanding outside the Jura mountains and has already been recorded sporadically in the Alps.
Originally, the European wildcat was distributed throughout Europe to the Caucasus and Ural Mountains. It was only missing in Scandinavia. Until recently, the wildcat was heavily persecuted, exterminated and decimated across large parts of its distribution range. Since their protection, the species is slowly expanding its range again where it can find favourable habitat. For a long time it was believed that wildcats require large mixed deciduous, structured forests. However, in the meantime it has been shown that the species is more adaptable than previously thought. Today, remnant populations are fragmented and live in parts of Europe from Spain to the Caucasus.
Global distribution of the European wildcat
The European wildcat Felis silvestris belongs to the genus Felis, along with six other species: The Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti), the jungle cat (Felis chaus), the African wildcat (Felis lybica), the domestic cat (Felis catus), the Sand Cat (Felis margarita) and the Black-footed cat (Felis nigripes).
Two subspecies of Felis silvestris are distinguished: Felis silvestris silvestris inhabiting Europe from Spain to eastern Europe, and Felis silvestris caucasica inhabiting the Caucasus and Turkey.