S4W-16205: Estimate of wildcat numbers

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an estimate of the number of wildcats living outside captivity.

Date Lodged: 01/07/13

Answered by Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs Transport (30/07/13):

There is currently no reliable basis from which to produce an estimate of the number of wildcats in the wild in Scotland. A number of estimates have been put forward, however none of these are considered to be reliable.

As part of a conservation action plan for Scottish wildcat is being coordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage and which is due to be published shortly, further work will be on-going to determine priority geographical areas for wildcat conservation. This will involve efforts to obtain an estimate of the numbers of wildcats in these areas. However, obtaining reliable population estimates for wildcats is very challenging; because they occur at low densities, are cryptic and largely nocturnal and because of the potential for confusion with domestic cats and hybrids. Hence the survey methods required for verifiable estimates are resource and time intensive.

While establishing wildcat numbers is clearly important for establishing local population viability, it would require significant dedicated resources to produce a national population estimate with any confidence. In conservation terms, this is currently considered a lower priority than putting conservation actions in place and monitoring populations in priority areas.

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