Categories: Wildcat

Scottish wildcats are extinct or on the brink of extinction in the wild

A study recently concluded that Scottish wildcats are now part of the same gene pool as domestic cats which means that they are functionally extinct which in turn means that they are on the brink of extinction in the wild. And I understand it, “functionally extinct” means that the wild cat population in Scotland is no longer viable or no longer plays a significant role in the ecosystem.

Difference between Scottish wild cat and hybrid variant

This state of affairs has been predicted and was expected to happen for a long time. The problem has been that Scottish wildcats consistently mate with domestic cats creating a hybrid or a non-purebred Scottish wildcat. By interbreeding with other cats such as strays and ferals the Scottish wild cat gradually destroyed itself as a separate species of animal. Humans did little or nothing to stop it. This is a human created problem.

The lead author of the study conducted at the Wildgenes Lab at Edinburgh Zoo said that the vast majority of Scottish wild cats were hybrids and on the brink of extinction in terms of functionality. The hundred wildcats in captivity across the UK are much more purebred than those in the wild. Those in the wild are now part of the same hybrid gene pool as domestic cats, the researchers stated.

The study incorporated analysing the DNA of (a) 125 wild-living dead cat collected over 25 years (b) 16 historical dead cats collected from 1895 to 1985 (c) 19 trapped cats as part of a survey conducted by Scottish Natural Heritage (d) 72 captive wild cats and (e) 19 domestic cats from the Edinburgh area.

To conclude, therefore, this has been a long journey to a predictable conclusion namely the extinction of the species of wildcats living in Scotland. If you think you see a Scottish wild cat in the wild you are actually looking at a hybrid. They can be quite difficult to differentiate (see image above). Of the few cats which are purebred living in the wild, it is predicted that these will also meet with domestic cats creating more hybrids which draws researchers to the conclusion that the species is in effect extinct.

It seems now that focus needs to be placed upon the pool of captive Scottish wildcats which are more purebred to try and expand the genetic diversity of this group of cats and perhaps in the long-term to reintroduce them into the wild.

There is no information available to me which tells me how good or bad captive Scottish wild cats are with respect to breeding in captivity. On my reading of this subject, it is not uncommon for captive cats to breed very badly due to stress which can make it very difficult to look after wild cat species at zoos. If this is the case with respect to this species then time is pressing because these captive cats will eventually die out in captivity and there will be no cats to replace them. At that point in time the Scottish wildcat would be completely extinct on the planet.

Two previous articles (there are more) written in 2013 when the situation was deteriorating:

Is It Over For The Scottish Wildcat?

Today I heard the Scottish Wildcat was close to becoming extinct

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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    • Well I was right then about your identity so why are you hiding behind an alias? Why not tell us your real name and make comments which are calm and which don't insult. Then you could join the discussion. Happy Christmas. Do Muslims celebrate Christmas or their version of it?

      • No, we don't celebrate Xmas. And I have posted under my real name repeatedly, and with a photo of myself. Since...(deleted because insulting - Admin)

        • You are commenting under a pseudonym or alias. You need to use your real name all the time plus a photo if you troll. By the way I do celebrate Christmas because my girlfriend likes to.

  • I guess none of you comprehend how the Scottish Wildcat was made extinct. Hunting and loss of habitat had NOTHING to do with it. You were all made aware of this over 7 years ago. It was your blind "love" for the non-native invasive species called "Felis catus" that caused it. If you can't see that then thousands of more species will become extinct due to you wretched humans that caused this--those who love and promote the existence of invasive species house-cats.

    Just like that cat in your other article, the one in a vet's office that stuck their head in a trash-hole to hide, you'll do the same and stick your own head where you've been keeping it all your sorry lives by not even publishing this. In your attempts to keep everyone just as ignorant as yourself. Who knew that you are no different than an ostrich-cat that sticks their head where the sun won't shine so they don't have to deal with reality. But I'm not surprised, I already knew this about all of you--years ago.

    • Don't insult me. Do it again and you're banned. I know the cause of this extinction and have stated it. If I was in the Scottish government I'd have done something about it.

      I freely admit that the cause of the extinction is letting domestic cats roam freely outside in Scotland. I don't live in Scotland and had no control over how the Scottish government dealt with this. Blame the Scots and the English earlier for hunting the wild cat to extinction in England until 1835 when it became extinct in that country.

      "Hunting and loss of habitat had NOTHING to do with it."

      This is incorrect as the wild cat was hunted to extinction in England as mentioned. Since the mid-1800s the wild cat was gradually made extinct by hybridisation.

  • Truly sad for such a beautiful species to become extinct because of humans. Too many are being lost because of our sickening species. I'm all for our species to become extinct and start over.

    • I just love such statements, because the answer inevitably it, "lead by example." Can you say 'hypocrisy', boys and girls?

  • This is a dreadful tragedy.

    If more funding, education of rural communities (including the gamekeepers & their wretched, wildlife, environment destroying, hunting/shooting employers) and action had been put into spay/neuter of all domestic cats in Wildcat areas, on a grand scale, it could have been averted.

    Where there is a will, there is a way. With the species essentially gone, where can the will come from now?

      • What hypocrisy. The coup d'etat for Felis sulvestris grampia was the deliberate proliferation and perpetuation of unconfined F. catus by irresponsible "no-kill" practices such as TNR and RTF, cat-feeding, cat-dumping and the insistence of self-entitled people in the UK that it's "cruel" to keep domesticated cats indoors.

        You English so-called "cat-lovers" are DIRECTLY responsible for F. s. grampia's extinction. Even the captive populations are only 80% F. sylvestris, genetically. But then people from England and Scotland are responsible for more species-level extinctions than anyone else in human history, so this is hardly surprising.

        • Where is the hypocrisy? I agree that this is the fault of people. Of course it is. But TNR is not to blame. TNR is not widespread in Scotland. Not even irresponsible cat ownership. The problem is letting domestic cats roam freely which is typical in the UK. I keep my cat confined by the way. Where am I being hypocritical?

          So stop being angry and stop insulting me for no reason and calm down.

          • The people supposedly "protecting" the few remaining Scottish Wildcat/"moggie" hybrids are practicing TNR--that's trap, neuther, RETURN--of unconfined domesticated cats in what little remains of their range.

            They were interviewed in a recent documentary titled "The Tigers of Scotland", wherein they repeatedly admitted that, instead of permanently removing domesticated cats, they were trapping, neutering, and returning them.

            However widespread or otherwise it is, the people tasked with "saving" the Scottish wildcat are doing their level best to genetically swamp them because they insist on practicing the utterly worthless "management" program of TNR.

            That's the one which has, despite six decades of practice in the UK, has allowed the stray and feral cat population to more than double--from 4.1 million in 1965 to 9.1 million (some estimate 10 million) today. And...last I check Scotland is still part of the UK. More's the pity.

            BTW, I wasn't even thinking about you. I was denouncing the hypocritical and worthless "conservation" practices of your country.

          • As I recall the comment was addressed to me as a reply. The UK is pretty worthless in terms of many things including conservation. The current government is pathetic.

          • See last sentence of first paragraph and first sentence of the second in my initial comment. The former was addressed to TNR pracitioners, feeders, dumpers and self-entitled people in the UK who think it's 'cruel' to keep domesticated cats indoors", and the latter was addressed to "English cat-nutters directly responsible for F. s. grampia's extinction."

            In neither sentence does the name "Michael Broad" appear. Don't you always tell us that you keep your cats indoors? But as an advocate of "no-kill" and TNR, I suppose you must unavoidably be assigned some of the blame for this extinction as well.

          • At the risk of feeding a cat hating troll, there is no evidence that persistent TNR affects the gene pool or effects a threat to the existence of Scottish Wild Cats. Predatory habits of domesticated, neutered feral cats are very different to that of the non domesticated Wild Cat. Do you not understand the difference between 'domesticated', 'feral' and 'wild' ?

            I don't think you understand that thousands of these wonderful wild animals were shot, trapped and poisoned by estate workers at the behest of land owning employers. This started the rot for the species. It is well documented.

            Dedicated TNR of dumped, stray, irresponsibly stewarded domestic cats simply happened in too small an effort and too late to secure the genetic integrity of the Wild Cat.

            No one is defending the irresponsibility of many humans, nor the blind thuggery of mass persecution of this species. Humans are waking up to the devastation of all species at a sub glacial speed.

            Perhaps you would live a happier life if you were able to acknowledge that as a member of homo sapiens, you are part of the planet's problems. It helps no species, wild or domesticated to heap hate upon one type of animal.

            If you look hard enough, I am sure you can find the history on Netflix or even in books. Failing that, some anger management might be of benefit.

          • Jane: "At the risk of feeding a cat hating troll, there is no evidence that persistent TNR affects the gene pool or effects a threat to the existence of Scottish Wild Cats."

            Me: Yet again we see the near-terminal lack of insight in "cat-rescue" extremists. You begin by calling me names out of one side of your mouth, then prescribing "anger management" for me out of the other. "Physician, heal thyself."

            And the evidence is this: despite SIX DECADES of TNR, its practitioners haven't acchieved more than an average sterilization rate of 1% (range 0.7%-3.7%) anywhere in the world. Yet feral cat populations continue to increase at an average rate of 29% (range 25%-33%). What this means is that the TNR aficionados WILL NEVER CATCH UP. They didn't in Scotland, and now it's too late.

            BTW, I can provide scientific reports-some from pro-TNR veterinarians like F. B. Nutter and J. K. Levy--substantiating what I've posted. Can you do the same? Didn't think so.

            Jane: "Predatory habits of domesticated, neutered feral cats are very different to that of the non domesticated Wild Cat. Do you not understand the difference between ‘domesticated’, ‘feral’ and ‘wild’ ?"

            Me: I'm a (retired) biologist with nearly four decades of field research in animal population dynamics and distribution, whereas you are...what? An outdoor cat-hoarder and compulsive exploiter of abandoned animal misery? I'll compare my scientific acumen with yours any day. Step up.

            Jane: "I don’t think you understand that thousands of these wonderful wild animals were shot, trapped and poisoned by estate workers at the behest of land owning employers. This started the rot for the species. It is well documented.

            Dedicated TNR of dumped, stray, irresponsibly stewarded domestic cats simply happened in too small an effort and too late to secure the genetic integrity of the Wild Cat."

            Me: ALL TNR efforts have--for the LAST SIXTY YEARS--been "too small and too late". Further, TNR didn't stop feral cats from transmitting FIV to wild cats, or displacing them through human-engendered superior numbers, or starving them out through destruction of their prey. This is nothing new. It has occurred to Felis sylvestris populations where ever humans have introduced F. catus.

            Jane: "No one is defending the irresponsibility of many humans, nor the blind thuggery of mass persecution of this species. Humans are waking up to the devastation of all species at a sub glacial speed."

            Me: As evidenced by the fact that so many like you still support and practice worthless "no-kill" programs like TNR. This is the direct result of "nature deprivation" in privileged white urbanites. They have no understanding of ecological reality or animals comprising naturally-occurring ecological systems. They only understand cartoon animals and "pets".

            Jane: "Perhaps you would live a happier life if you were able to acknowledge that as a member of homo sapiens, you are part of the planet’s problems. It helps no species, wild or domesticated to heap hate upon one type of animal."

            And you're...what? A cat trapped in a human's body? Hatred is as hatred does. You heap your hatred (whether you admit it or not) on orders of magnitude more types of animal than do I, by proxy of the destructive invasive felines you inflict on our environment. With respect to Felis sylvestris, I'm the cat-lover, not you.

            Jane: "If you look hard enough, I am sure you can find the history on Netflix or even in books. Failing that, some anger management might be of benefit."

            Again, I'll compare my understanding of wildlife conservation and natural history to yours any day. I've actually contributed to conservation efforts. Nor can you elicit anger from me. A bit of contempt is the most you'll get.

          • "They were interviewed in a recent documentary titled “The Tigers of Scotland”, wherein they repeatedly admitted that, instead of permanently removing domesticated cats, they were trapping, neutering, and returning them."

            Show me this because I need to verify it. Also this is one group if it is true. The issue is far more widespread.

          • It's currently on "Netflix". I know they have this in Australia. Dunno about the UK. And "Scottish Wildcat Action was one of only two groups receiving funding to "save" this species. And they were constantly fighting over the funds and attacking each other, IIRC.

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