THE Scottish wildcat faces extinction within months, conservationists claim, as a new report reveals fewer than 35 pure-bred cats could be alive.
• Scottish Wildcat ‘could be extinct within months
• Expert’s grim outlook for rare species
A team led by the Scottish Wildcat Association (SWA) studied more than 2,000 records including camera trap sightings, eye witness reports and roadkills collected independently.
The project suggests there could be only 35 pure-bred wildcats left, far fewer than the previous estimate of 400. But the SWA claims interbreeding with domestic and feral cats was drastically reducing the numbers.
Of the 2,000 records studied, less than 20 complied with the accepted coat-marking identifiers of the true wildcat. With an estimated 3,500 hybrids and wildcats in Scotland, this would mean there were just 35 pure-bred of the species left.
SWA chairman Steve Piper said: “However you juggle the figures it’s hard to find anything positive. If you ignore the eyewitness sightings because they’re unreliable, the numbers get even worse.
“If you hypothesise that wildcats avoid roads they only pick up a little, even if you decide the population of hybrids is larger you have to multiply it to impossible levels to get to the commonly quoted figure of 400 wildcats.
“The overwhelming evidence is that the wildcat is going to be extinct within months. Anything else is blind hope.”
The new study was carried out by SWA with assistance from Oxford University experts.
SWA said licensed trapping of the mammals should be allowed so blood samples could be taken in an effort to better understand the state of the population.