A NEW study is exploring the possibility of bringing European wildcats to the Southwest. 

The South West Wildcat Project is investigating the feasibility of reintroducing European wildcats - Felis silvestris - to South West England, after work by the Vincent Wildlife Trust and Durrell identified it as an area with the potential to support the animals. 

While at this stage there are no plans to release big cats into the area, the eighteen-month feasibility study will report its findings by the end of 2024 and could confirm the potential for wildcats to be reintroduced.  

The project, which includes Devon Wildlife Trust, Forestry England, and the Derek Gow Consultancy, will consider whether to develop a project proposal in response to the findings. 

Wildcats historically lived throughout England and Wales until the mid-1800s. Persecution and habitat fragmentation resulted in them becoming extinct. A critically endangered wildcat population remains in Scotland and is the subject of conservation action. 

The University of Exeter is undertaking a public opinion survey to better understand perspectives on wildcats, and whether a reintroduction is socially feasible 

Cath Jeffs, Devon Wildlife Trust’s South West Wildcat Project lead, said: “Returning the native wildcat to the South West is an exciting prospect but will only be possible with the support of local communities. 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. I am really looking forward to seeing the results.” 

The opinion survey can be found on the Devon Wildlife Trust’s website.  

Would you want to see the animals reintroduced to the South West?