Česká verze

Wildcat – a new visitor of our camera traps in South Bohemia

Following the recent records of wolves, this is another rare "catch" from the Bohemian Forest foothills.

10.1.2017, Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí DUHA), Šumava NP Authority

The camera traps installed by the Friends of the Earth CZ "Lynx Patrols" at the foothills of the Bohemian Forest range recorded two videos showing a small carnivore which looks remarkably like a wildcat. The appearance and behaviour of the animal correspond to those of a rare creature that vanished from our nature about two hundred years ago. Videos were recorded at the edge of the Šumava Protected Landscape Area. The new footage belongs to the list of fewer than ten records of wildcat in the modern history of the Czech Republic [1].

Wildcat returns to the Bohemian Forest

The videos show an animal walking past the marking spot and, in one case, a typical feline marking behaviour often observed in domestic cats and the lynx. Experts are hoping to find samples for genetic analysis which could shed more light on the origin of the animal.

The monitoring of large carnivores in the southwest Bohemia is a joint effort of  Šumava NP and PLA Authority, the regional office of Nature Conservation Agency for South Bohemia and two environmental NGOs, Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí DUHA) and ALKA Wildlife.

Wildcats commonly inhabited our forests until the mid-1700s. Their population declined due to the loss of primary forest environment and the systematic persecution by humans. People perceived the wildcats as a threat to game birds raised for hunting [2].

The monitoring of wildcats is a complicated task. Their territories are small, barely a few square kilometres, and their secretive way of life and low population density makes any detection difficult. When the occurrence signs are found, it is often not clear whether they belong to a domestic cat or its rare elusive relative [3]. Unfortunately, the cases are known of a wildcat being mistaken for a feral domestic cat and shot dead "by accident".

The natural habitats of wildcats are the lowlands with a warmer climate and deciduous or mixed coniferous forests. The cats favour small clearings, hidden meadows and undisturbed forest edges with an abundance of shrubs. Rodents represent the main part of wildcats' diet [4].

The wildcat became an iconic species of the Friends of the Earth CZ campaign "Czech Wilderness".  The campaign aims to promote the expansion and more effective protection of native forests undisturbed by human activity, which provide habitats crucial for the recovery of the wildcat population. Such areas, where spontaneous forest processes are allowed to occur without human intervention, are also important for many endangered species relying on rotting wood and different stages of forest development. Protection of these natural processes forms an integral part of wildlife protection. Moreover, the observation of such processes provides us with a unique chance to uncover the secrets of nature development in response to climate change.

Luděk Bufka, a zoologist of Šumava NP Authority, commented on the latest evidence:

"Our camera traps captured a wildcat already some four years ago. In addition to these rare records of the species in the Czech part of the Bohemian Forest, there are also photographs from camera traps located in the lower sections of the range on the Bavarian side. This is not unexpected because in Bavaria about 120 wildcats were released into the wild in the 1980s and we know that this population still exists. It is possible that it is becoming the source of animals occurring in our country. Unfortunately, the wildcat is still an extremely rare species.

Bufka's colleague Elisa Belotti adds:

"These recordings may be a sign that the species is slowly returning to our nature, but they might have also resulted from improved monitoring techniques which allow better study of elusive carnivores and mapping of the more extensive area. Until recently, it had been very difficult to detect wildcats in our forests but the situation changed with the development of camera trapping. The cameras installed at suitable locations make it possible to confirm the presence of species which had until now escaped the attention of experts.

Josefa Volfová, Friends of the Earth CZ Lynx Patrols project coordinator, explains:

"Volunteers of the Lynx Patrols focus on monitoring the large carnivores mainly in the lower regions of the Bohemian Forest and the adjacent mountain ranges. They are obtaining valuable information on the presence of lynx, wolves, and wildcats. The habitats here are clearly ideal for these protected carnivores and it is only up to us whether they will return permanently."

As wildcat expert Jana Pospíšková puts it:

"The climate of the Bohemian Forest mountain range is too rough for wildcats, but its foothills offer suitable environment. The latest wildcat records give yet another ray of hope that this fascinating creature will return to southern Bohemia. The proof of permanent presence - the sign of reproduction is still missing, though."



Josefa Volfová, Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí DUHA) "Lynx Patrols" project, josefa.volfova@hnutiduha.cz

Elisa Belotti, zoologist of Šumava NP Authority, elisa.belotti@npsumava.cz

Jan Piňos, media and communications at Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (Hnutí DUHA), jan.pinos@hnutiduha.cz,

Jan Dvořák, Šumava NP Authority's spokesperson, jan.dvorak@npsumava.cz



[1] Pospíšková J., Kutal M., Bojda M., Bufková-Daniszová K., Bufka L., 2014: New findings of Felis silvestris in the Czech Republic (Carnivora - Felidae) Lynx: The Journal of Mammalogy, ed. 44 and here.

[2] The mountains and hills of South Bohemia were the last refuges of wildcats at our territory. They survived here until the beginning of 19th century, as documented by sporadically killed animals. The experts on local environment estimate that only the fragments of original population remained in the area at the time. The crucial point for the modern re-occurrence of the carnivore in the southwest Bohemia is the relative proximity to the strong German population. The wildcat is a target species of large protection projects in Germany.

[3] Wildcat is usually more robust, it has a very thick tail, round at the tip, and its colour and body markings differ slightly from those of a domestic tabby cat. However, recognizing these identifiers correctly requires a highly trained eye. More on the difference between the wildcat and the domestic cat can be found here.

[4] Jana Pospíšková from the Faculty of Science of the Charles University in Prague developed a habitat model which shows that the areas of Bohemia which could support wildcats include the Doupov Mountains, the Křivoklátsko region, and the lower sections of the Bohemian Forest and its foothills. Based on the model, up to the quarter of our territory appears to offer suitable conditions to the rare cat.


Friends of the Earth are able to carry out projects on protection and monitoring of large carnivores thanks to generous support of individual donors – Friends of Large Carnivores. Please join us here.

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