Spatial organisation of European wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris) in an agriculturally dominated landscape in Central Europe
Abstract For the first time, a telemetry study of European wildcats was conducted outside heavily forested habitats, in an agriculturally-dominated landscape, which is assumed to be a suboptimal habitat in Central Europe. According to the current knowledge of morphological and genetic diagnoses all captured wildcats were purebred, without any hint of recent interbreeding. Our results confirmed the regular use of open landscape habitats also by resident individuals. Sex and age ratios of wildcats, using the open landscapes, were balanced, and one successful reproduction event was recorded. Female annual home-ranges were smaller compared to those recorded in forested habitats. Male annual home-ranges were similar in size, whereas the core areas were smaller than those recorded in adjacent forested habitats. Males had the largest home-ranges during spring and the smallest in summer, whereas females had the largest home-ranges during summer and the smallest during winter/spring. The structure of the apparently purebred population with resident individuals and a reproduction event in an open cultivated landscape may be related to the close proximity (3.5–5km) of a wildcat core distribution area. As a consequence of our results, the potential range of the European wildcat is increased, because it may occur in agricultural landscapes where sufficient shelter is available. This should be considered in environmental impact analyses and species monitoring.
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