Devon wildcat reintroduction an 'exciting prospect'


The idea of reintroducing European Wildcat to Devon is gathering momentum, with a feasibility study underway to determine whether the feline could return to south-west England.

In 2022, Devon Wildlife Trust began looking to employ someone who could judge whether Wildcats could be reintroduced to Devon.

That role has seemingly been filled, as the trust is now leading the study – the South West Wildcat Project – alongside the University of Exeter, with a public opinion survey on the possible reintroduction.

European Wildcat became extinct in England hundreds of years ago (Michael Gäbler).


Wildcats in Devon

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Vincent Wildlife Trust identified the county as having "the potential to support wildcats". No releases are currently planned at present, with findings from the study to be reported by the end of 2024.

Cath Jeffs, Devon Wildlife Trust's South West Wildcat Project lead, said returning the species to the South-West was "an exciting prospect" but could only be achieved with "the support of local communities".

She said: "We are hoping that lots of people will take part in the survey to help us understand both whether there would be support for bringing wildcats back, and any concerns and potential impacts that would need to be considered."


Public consultation

All residents in the South West are invited to take part in the survey which will be open until 23 May.

European Wildcat historically lived throughout England and Wales, but had become extinct by the mid-1800s. A tiny and threatened population remains in Scotland and is the subject of conservation action.