European Wildcat
(Felis Silvestris Silvestris) Study in Germany

Karsten Hupe who has a degree in wildlife biology is conducting the current study in Germany on the conditions of the European wildcat. In addition Hupe also has credentials in forest management and agriculture. For more than 10 years now he has been studying the European wildcat habitat and habits. He also took all the photos that are published in the following report.

His website is www.jagdeinrichtungsbuero.de

In the previous report I have mentioned the general biology of these European cats and introduced our teamwork with Karsten. In the paragraphs to follow in this report will give the results of that study. CLaRF and Karsten started our study in 2005, which will be continuing at least until 2008. Again, please contact CLaRF if you would like more information or have questions. We also have available a long list for other publications regarding the wildcats.

The Area

Lying on the northwestern fringe of the central European highlands, the Solling Mountains are about 70 km south of Hannover and 30 km north west of Goettingen. This area is a low mountain range with slight slopes and plateaus of which more than 90% are forested. The predominant trees on the landscape are spruces and oaks. Elevation is between 300 and 450 m above sea level. The average precipitation is 850 to 900 mm, sometimes up to 1.400 mm, which makes the Solling one of the most humid and snow rich areas. The average temperature is 7.5 degree Celsius; average number of days with snow cover is 63.

Summary of The Previous Studies

The initial study, of which CLaRF was not a participant, was a general survey of the wildcat population. It was found that the population has stabilized over the last 10 - 15 years. Notably, the forest management program of those areas for a long termed ecological forest development has improved and increased the wildcat habitats. Several of the wildcats were caught, measurements and vital signs taken, and outfitted with radio collars. The average weight of the females was about 3654 grams; the tomcats average a weight of more than 4678 grams. The average home range (estimated by 95% Kernel estimation) of the females was about 1090 ha; (explain HA) the male cats had a range up to 3420 ha. The cats' range varies somewhat in size depending on the seasons and, of course, patterns revealed during both days and nights. The overall sum of sightings for 2000 to 2004 has increased by 60% compared with the comparison period of the nineties. In the year 2000, five litters were observed; in the years 2001 - 2004, four litters were sited each year.

Sighting of a European Wildcat - what a wonderful experience!

Summary of the Study 2001 - 2003

CLaRF came in on this study sometime in 2002. A report of that period was in our previous report. The study was conducted in a slightly different area in Germany, somewhat more towards the east. The goal was to find out how motorways affect the behavior in patterns of habitat use. I am happy to say that after publication of the study and the appropriate meetings with officials, the government decided to build some "green ways" for the animals. These greenways are made up of tunnels under the motorways or a bridge over the motorway; these tunnels greatly benefited the cats' range!!!!

Over a period of 386 nights between November 2001 and December 2003, one male and three female wildcats were caught, measured and fitted with radio collars. The home ranges for those cats were 2.360 ha (2.130 day, 2.430 nights) for the male and 660 ha on average for the females (570 day, 840 nights). There was also noted some overlapping in the ranges. All cats were more active nocturnally, 88.5% of all localizations were made during the night, compared to 29.8% during the day. 86% of all localizations were from woodlands; there were about 8% from motorway embankments.

2005 - 2008
Radio telemetric Study about the reproduction of the European Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) in the Solling Area in Germany (near Hannover)

Description of the Study

During the winter months Karsten traps as many wildcats as possible, takes measurements and outfits them with a telemetric collar. They get localized at least once daily and their position gets marked in a detailed forest map of the area (a copy is available upon request). With the help of the localizations Karsten will be able to find out if there are kittens - these in turn will be outfitted with special "growing" telemetric collars. If possible there will be video cameras installed to document their progress, or photos will be taken if possible. The death rate among kittens is quite high so we hope this study might shed some light on the high mortality and how to prevent that. Through the video surveillance the mother-kitten-connection will be documented which gives valuable data for researchers.

Two trapped cats, a male and a female, marked and outfitted with radio collars.

Results from 2005 and 2006

Karsten has been able to trap three female and two male cats. The home ranges for the two male cats is about 1340 and 930 ha, respectively. One female cat has a very small range of only 190 ha whereas the other female inhabits about 810 ha. The third female, who was trapped in December of 2006, has not yet been sufficiently observed. Interestingly enough, there were no kittens at all in 2006. The reason appears to be the shortage of prey available, all of which is related to the climate. The winter 2005/2006 was especially cold, snowy, and harsh; many tree buds froze and, therefore, there wasn't enough food for the rodents and other herbivores which are the prime food sources. The cats eat a variety of mice that, in turn, are also the prey of owls. Since the owls leave pellets on the ground, these are used for analysis. That analysis, in turn, gives some clues as to the prey of the wildcats as well.

This winter so far has been very mild. Prey should be sufficient. And, since no reproduction was noted in 2006, we definitely expect kittens this year!

Release!

On that note, we from ClarRF thank Karsten for his great work and we wish him a successful and interesting 2007.

Again, much more information is available so just let us know of your interest.