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201407Dec11:13

Wild­cats born in the Nether­lands in the wild

Infor­ma­tion
pub­lished 07 Decem­ber 2014 | mod­i­fied 07 Decem­ber 2014
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Wildcat cameratrap NLFor the first time since cen­turies wild­cats born in the wild have been recorded in the Nether­lands. The Dutch con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tion ARK Natu­uron­twik­kel­ing [’nature devel­op­ment’] inves­ti­gates the return of this rare species. Dur­ing the study this year they found at least five dif­fer­ent indi­vid­ual wild­cats, two of which were born in the Nether­lands. The return of the wild­cat occurs with impres­sive speed.

Research with cam­era trap and radio col­lar
Funded by the province of Lim­burg in the Nether­lands ARK Natu­uron­twik­kel­ing con­duct research on the return of the wild­cat in Zuid-​Limburg , the province’s most south­ern region. It con­cerns the Euro­pean wild­cat (Felis sil­vestris sil­vestris), one of the 36 wild feline species, which is not to be mis­taken for a feral domes­tic cat. The research find­ings will be used to make nature reserves and areas, includ­ing con­nect­ing routes, a suit­able habi­tat for wild­cats. Besides radio col­lar­ing indi­vid­ual cats, cam­era traps are being used for the research. This year’s find­ings show that at least two wild­cat kit­tens are born in the Vijlener­bos. In Sep­tem­ber a young wild­cat was pho­tographed with a cam­era trap and in Octo­ber another young spec­i­men was captured.

Wild­cats in Ger­many and Bel­gium
Large pop­u­la­tions of wild­cats exist in the Eifel (Ger­many) and Ardennes (Bel­gium). The num­ber of wild­cats have increased the last decades and the lim­its to sus­tain even more cats have been reached in these areas. When wild­cats reach adult­hood they will seek their own hunt­ing area, though young ani­mals may use their mother’s ter­ri­tory for a while before occu­py­ing their own. Ani­mals that can’t find such an area — because it’s full — will migrate over longer dis­tances and invade new region. This is what hap­pened in the Vijlener­bos and adja­cent forests in Bel­gium and Ger­many where some of these wan­der­ing wild­cats estab­lished themselves.

From zero to five wild­cats
Until recently the wild­cat was con­sid­ered extinct in the Nether­lands. The past ten years only a few obser­va­tions of wild­cats have been recorded. In 2013, one wild­cat was found due to exten­sive research. So, the con­firmed record­ing of at least five indi­vid­ual wild­cats in the province Zuid-​Limburg in 2014 was rather unex­pected, and even more that three of them could be radio-​collared.

Footage of a Euro­pean wild­cat in May 2014 in Zuid-​Limburg, the Nether­lands. On 1 June 2014 a male wild­cat was cap­tured and radio-​collared for the first time ever in the Nether­lands:

(Source: ARK Natu­uron­twik­kel­ing YouTube channel)

Repro­duc­tion
The return hap­pens with remark­able speed, but that breed­ing already occurred is beyond expec­ta­tions. The first sig­nal that wild­cat kit­tens could have been born in Zuid-​Limburg arrived on 25 Octo­ber when a tom­cat of about eight months old was cap­tured. At that age ado­les­cent wild­cats still live in their mother’s ter­ri­tory, which meant that this young tom­cat must have been born in the Nether­lands or in the bor­der area.

Last week, the researchers received footage of a few months old wild­cat. The videos came from a cam­era trap in the Vijlener­bos and were cap­tured in Sep­tem­ber. As this is clearly a young ani­mal it is now irrefutable that this sum­mer breed­ing of wild­cats took place in Zuid-​Limburg. So, Euro­pean wild­cats make the Nether­lands their home, show­ing all aspects of nat­ural behav­iour — includ­ing breed­ing, which proves also that there’s at least one female wild­cat in the area. The three radio-​collared spec­i­mens were all tomcats.

(Source: ARK Natu­uron­twik­kel­ing YouTube channel)

Improved habi­tat
The dis­cov­ery is an addi­tional incen­tive to make Zuid-​Limburg a more suit­able wild­cat ter­ri­tory. Such an habi­tat exists of forests where the cats can rest and for­ag­ing (hunt­ing) areas com­pris­ing rough grass­lands and wide and var­ied for­est edges. Another goal of ARK and other nature con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tions is to improve the qual­ity of the con­nect­ing areas between nature reserves, so wild­cats can safely reach other areas with­out becom­ing road­kill. Other species will ben­e­fit from these green con­nec­tions as well, of course.



(Source: ARK Natu­uron­twik­kel­ing nieuws [trans­lated] , 06.12.2014)


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