Scottish Wildcat Conservation

I: Scottish wildcat conservation and the ecology of domestic and feral cats 

The Scottish wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris, is the UK’s last remaining native felid. After many years of persecution and habitat loss, this subspecies is no longer present in England and Wales. Without intervention, this pattern could repeat itself in Scotland, rendering the wildcat locally extinct in Britain.

The UK wildcat populations are now only extant in the Highlands of Scotland. Alongside a variety of other stressors, one of the key threats to these mammals is hybridisation with domestic and feral cats.

Nell Williams Foley’s project, in conjunction with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Wildcat Action Group, the Natural Environment Research Council and Cardiff University, aims to use biotelemetry and social research methods to develop both our understanding of cat ecology and of cat ownership. This knowledge will allow the more effective management of the impacts cats have on the Scottish wildcat.


  1. To develop our understanding of the drivers of contact between free-ranging cats and Scottish wildcats
  2. To assess the efficacy of current management solutions
  3. To conduct social research to identify potential barriers to responsible cat ownership
Research Team

Nell Williams Foley (University of Exeter)

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Dr Roo Campbell (Scottish Natural Heritage)

Professor Stuart Bearhop (University of Exeter)

Dr Sarah Perkins (Cardiff University)

Scottish Natural Heritage
Scottish Wildcat Action
II: Restoring the Celtic tiger: wildcat conservation in Western Britain

This project will investigate the potential for, and challenges to, wildcat recovery and restoration outside of their current Scottish refugium, to their former range in Wales and England. Tom Dando is undertaking interdisciplinary work towards understanding the ecological and social feasibility and practicalities of wildcat restoration, including qualitative studies of the challenges of reconciling wildcat conservation with the interests of domestic cat owners, and of potential conflict with farming and shooting interests.

Quantitative studies will address the suitability of source populations of wildcats (including captive-breeding), population viability, landscape suitability and means of managing hybridisation. The project aims include building a social-ecological network around conservation of iconic species in contested landscapes, alongside delivering applied outcomes of protocols and practices towards reintroductions.

The project will work with and is funded by partners at The Vincent Wildlife Trust, who have recently led the successful restoration of pine martens to Wales, and global conservation leaders the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Research Team

Tom Dando (University of Exeter)

Professor Robbie McDonald (University of Exeter)

Dr Steve Carter (Vincent Wildlife Trust)

Dr Richard Young (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)


Sponsoring Partners
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