A new survey by the Scottish Wildcat Association of the endangered Scottish wildcat has revealed only about 35 purebred individuals, prompting the group to announce the cat may go extinct within months, the BBC reports.
It was previously thought that their population numbered about 400. Another survey, funded by Scottish Natural Heritage and published last month, estimated about 150 breeding pairs. The Scottish Wildcat Association believes this figure is unrealistically optimistic and calls the cat “Britain’s most endangered mammal.”
Whatever the real figure, it’s obvious the Scottish wildcat is on its way out. Inbreeding, disease, and breeding with feral domestic cats threatens to eliminate the purebred species.
The Scottish wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) is found only in the Scottish highlands but once roved all over Britain. A few can be found in captivity, such as these two in the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, photographed by Peter Trimming.
Scotland is one of Europe’s wildest and most beautiful hiking destinations. If these figures prove correct, it looks like it will soon be a little less beautiful and a little less wild.