Increase of large game species in Mediterranean areas: Is the European wildcat (Felis silvestris) facing a new threat?

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


There are several factors that threaten wildcat (Felis silvestris) populations in Europe, including habitat destruction, direct persecution and genetic introgression from domestic cats. However, in contrast to other predatory species, lack of prey availability has not been evaluated as a risk factor for wildcats. In this study, we analyse the relationship between the abundance of wildcats and the abundance of their preferred prey, the wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and the abundance of two large ungulates, the wild boar (Sus scrofa) and red deer (Cervus elaphus). The study was conducted in a typical Mediterranean ecosystem, the Monfragüe Natural Park (central Spain). We surveyed 30 (2 × 2 km) sites along a 2 km linear transect within each site, looking for signs indicating the presence of each species. Using this indirect method, we calculated an abundance index for each species based on their frequencies of occurrence. The results showed that the abundances of wild rabbits and ungulates were negatively associated. Moreover, wildcat abundance was positively related to rabbit abundance, but negatively related to ungulate abundances. Thus, the high population densities that ungulates reach in some natural areas, promoted in many cases by the hunting management strategies, appear to jeopardise wildcat populations by reducing rabbit availability. Therefore, as a new key action for the conservation of European wildcat we advocate the change of hunting management strategies in order to control ungulate populations, and therefore facilitate the recovery of wild rabbit populations.

ZeitschriftBiological Conservation
Seiten (von - bis)321-329
Anzahl der Seiten9
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 09.2007