The wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) of Northern Greece
The European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) is the only confirmed wild feline within Greece. It is a relatively small animal, weighing 3-6 kg, which is widely distributed in Europe, from Sicily to Scotland, and Portugal to the Caucasus. Unfortunately, many local wildcat populations shrink or disappear, especially in Northern Europe. Humans are the main threat for the species, causing fragmentation of its niches, mortality due to automobile traffic, and poisonous baiting, as well as hybridisation with domestic cats. Due to this, our project aims to contribute to understanding the ecology and conservation of wildcats.
Our main goals are to:
- Assess the periodical spatial use of wildcats.
- Identify parametres affecting ranging (i.e. locale, sex, age).
- Record diurnal and nocturnal ranging, especially nesting and resting sites, predatory activity, and approaches to human settlements.
To accomplish these goals, we have developed a method to combine three ways to acquire information.
We are placing motion-detecting camera traps in probable wildcat corridors. These include paths, forest roads, possible nesting sites, and foraging sites, as indicated by food remains and biomarkers.
Radiomarking and Trapping
Traps are being placed in various places, with as equal as possible distances to one another. The traps are being checked every morning, in the event of capturing an animal, to minimise its stay within the cage. With veterinary surgeon assistance, blood and hair samples are collected, for future genetic analyses, as well as ectoparasites. Finally, a GPS collar is placed on the animal, testing its functionality, and the animal is returned to the place of capture, where it is released after regaining consciousness.
Using this method, we aim to locate, record, and collect biomarkers of the species. These biomarkers can be feaces, traces of feeding, and possible nesting sites. To achieve this, we will trek across forest roads during the day, along with placing camera traps.