- The Wild cat is listed in CITES Appendix II, in Appendix II of the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Also, in the European Union’s Habitats and Species Directive. These are international agreements aimed at protecting endangered species and their habitats.
- The Wild cat is often confused with domestic cats, as their appearance can be very similar. However, there are a few key differences that can help identify a Wild cat. This included yellowish brown color behind the ears, long, thick, and drooping whiskers, and a pair of black stripes on each side of the face.
- The Wild cat’s diet consists primarily of small mammals like rabbits, rats, and mice. They also eat insects, lizards, and occasionally prey on small carnivores like martens, polecat, stoat, and weasel. Very young fawns of red deer, roe deer, and chamois are also sometimes preyed upon.
- There are three types of Wild cat in Spain: Felis silvestris silvestris, Felis silvestris tartessia, and Felis lybica jordansi. Felis silvestris silvestris is the most common and is found in the central, north, and northwest of the Iberian peninsula. Felis silvestris tartessia is found in the south of the Duero and Ebro rivers and along the mountainous Mediterranean countryside. Felis lybica jordansi is only present on the island of Mallorca and in some parts of the cities of Ceuta and Melilla in very small populations.
- The Wild cat population in Portugal and Spain is threatened by accidental hunting kills, interbreeding with feral and domestic cats, and loss of habitat. Efforts to protect Wild cats include programs aimed at reducing hunting and promoting conservation of their habitats.
The wild cat habits
The Wild cat – Felis sylvestris sylvestris – Gato montes population in Spain is probably more abundant than we think but due to its elusive nature it is rarely seen and many people often confuse an average tabby cat for this wild cat if its seen up in the hills or away from human habitation. Especially, as its appearance is quite similar to that of a domestic cat but, remember, it has a much stronger build than most domesticated cat breeds. (Felis sylvestris catus).
The wildcat feeds on rabbits, rats, mice, lizards and insects such as grasshoppers, mantis and locust. From time to time, it also preys on small carnivores like martens, polecat, stoat and least weasel as well as very young fawns of red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra).
Identification of the Wild cat – Felis sylvestris sylvestris – Gato montes
If it looks like a tabby cat and you are up in the mountains away from towns and villages use the following to double check.
- Yellowish brown color behind the ears.
- Flat face, yellowish muzzle (there may be some whitish area).
- Long, thick and drooping whiskers.
- Greenish or amber eyes.
- Pair of black stripes on each side of the face.
- Four or more black stripes from head across to the shoulders.
- A dorsal black line from nape of neck to base of tail.
- Long bushy tail with two or three black rings and a large black tip
- Sometimes a white spot on throat but not always!
There are three types of wildcat in Spain
Felis silvestris silvestris
The most common throughout the European continent and in Spain it usually inhabits the Central, North and Northwest of the Iberian peninsular. Its coat is dark gray with brown tones and with a brindle appearance. Their weight ranges between 3 and 6 kg, with the male being 20% larger than the female.
Felis silvestris tartessia
Prefers to live in warmer areas, especially in the southern part of the Peninsula, taking advantage of the wide expanses of Mediterranean forest. Its size is slightly larger than Felis silvestris silvestris and the coat has much darker tones.
Felis lybica jordansi
Also known as the African wild cat or the desert cat, Felis lybica jordansi classified as a sub-species of felis silvestris silvestris and in Spain it is only present on the island of Mallorca and in some parts of the cities of Ceuta and Melilla in very small populations. It differs from the European wildcat by inconspicuous stripes on the nape and shoulders, a less sharply defined stripe across the spine and by the slender tail, which is cylindrical, less bushy and more tapering. Ears are normally tipped with a small tuft. Its fur is shorter than of the European wildcat, and it is considerably smaller
Threats to Wild cat – Felis sylvestris sylvestris – Gato montes
- The population in Portugal and Spain is threatened by accidental hunting kills (they are shot by people mistaking them for feral cats.).
- Interbreeding with feral and domestic cats.
- Loss of habitat.
Images sourced from the nice article here in Spanish: https://muchamontana.com/donde-vive-gato-montes-espana/
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