Mammal Research

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Mapping the spatial configuration of hybridization risk for an endangered population of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) in Scotland

  • Kerry Kilshaw
  • Robert A. Montgomery
  • Ruairidh D. Campbell
  • David A. Hetherington
  • Paul J. Johnson
  • Andrew C. Kitchener
  • David W. Macdonald
  • Joshua J. Millspaugh
Original Paper


The wildcat in Scotland, UK, is currently at risk of extinction because of hybridization with feral domestic cats (ferals) and hybrids (wildcat × domestic cat crosses). Conservation efforts are hampered by limited information on the distribution of these three cat types and the spatial variation in hybridization risk. From January 2010 to July 2013, we conducted widespread camera-trapping surveys throughout northern Scotland to document the distribution of ferals, hybrids, and wildcats. Using single-season occupancy models, we predicted the probability of occupancy for these three cat types across Scotland. Over 49,031 camera-trapping days, we had 87 captures (photo of a cat at a camera-trap station within a 24-h period) of wildcats, 145 captures of hybrids, and 193 captures of ferals. At over 48 % of the camera-trap stations where we detected wildcats, we also detected ferals or hybrids. We predicted wildcat occupancy as a function of habitat covariates. Wildcat occupancy probability increased in habitat with a higher proportion of mixed woodland habitat and decreased in habitat with more edge (transition from closed to open habitats). Hybrids showed a clear overlap in their distribution pattern with both ferals and wildcats. The results indicate that wildcats in Scotland are at risk of hybridization across much of their current distribution from ferals and/or hybrids. In particular, hybrids have an increased probability of occupying much of the same habitat as wildcats compared to ferals, supporting recent suggestions that hybrids may pose a significant additional hybridization threat by facilitating gene flow between wildcats and ferals.


Camera-trap Distribution Felis silvestris silvestris Hybridization Occupancy Wildcat 



We are grateful to the support of the Recanti-Kaplan Foundation, the European Nature Trust, the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), the Aspinall Foundation (KK and DWM), the Whitely Animal Protection Trust (PJJ), Scottish Natural Heritage (KK and DAH), and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (KK, RDC).

We wish to thank Helen Gray and Alistair Lyon (Ralia Estate), Michael Bruce and Colin McClean (Glen Tanar), Vicky Hilton, Alistair Mitchell, Sandy Hinshelwood (Glen Livet Estate), the owners and Derek Calder (Edinglassie Estate), the owners and Graeme Cumming (Blair Atholl Estate), Barbara MacDonald and Jaimie Bain (Letterewe Estate), Thomas MacDonell (Hope Estate), Frank Law (Seafield and Strathspey Estates), Lord Moray and Staff (Darnaway Estate), Alan Watson Featherstone and Steve Morris (Dundreggan Estate), Evelyn Cameron (Sutherland Estate), Mr. George Vestey and Craig Ross (Vestey Estate), Jane Tulloch (Assynt Foundation Estate), Gavin and Louise Suggett (Creich Organic Farm), Peter Crome (Skibo Estate), Adam Henderson, Lord Thurso, and Rt. Hon Patrick Sinclair (Thurso Estate), John and Wilma Cameron (Dunach Estate) and Mark Mitchell (Bell Ingram Inc.), Angus Robertson (Ardtornish Estates), Roy Dennis (Highland Foundation for Wildlife), Adrian Davis (Naiad Ecology) and Dr. Ro Scott, and also, numerous staff at the Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, National Trust for Scotland, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Woodland Trust, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Scottish Wildcat Association.


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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerry Kilshaw
    • 1
  • Robert A. Montgomery
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ruairidh D. Campbell
    • 3
  • David A. Hetherington
    • 4
  • Paul J. Johnson
    • 1
  • Andrew C. Kitchener
    • 6
    • 7
  • David W. Macdonald
    • 1
  • Joshua J. Millspaugh
    • 5
  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Recanti-Kaplan Centre, Tubney House, Department of ZoologyUniversity of OxfordOxonUK
  2. 2.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Royal Zoological Society of ScotlandEdinburgh ZooEdinburghUK
  4. 4.Cairngorms National Park AuthorityGrantown on SpeyUK
  5. 5.Department of Fisheries and Wildlife SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  6. 6.Department of Natural SciencesNational Museums ScotlandEdinburghUSA
  7. 7.Institute of Geography, School of GeoSciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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