‘Extinct’ wildcat spotted in Tyrol

A hunter from Paznauntal caught a wildcat - thought to be extinct in Austria - in a trap at an altitude of 1,100 metres in the mountains of Tyrol.

According to the Austrian Press Association (APA), the hunter said that the wildcat had a bushy tail and a flesh-coloured nose, features which distinguish it from a regular house cat.

He released the animal, but was able to collect a sample of hair which he forwarded to the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo for identification, according to the Wildcat Platform lobby group, which coordinates sightings of the animals.

The wildcat has been considered extinct in Austria since the mid-1950s.  

Another recent sighting of a wildcat came from the Thaya Valley National Park in the Waldviertel region of Lower Austria.

Scientists and conservationists are hopeful that a stable breeding population might be re-established in Austria, possibly fed by migration from groups in Slovenia and Italy.

Photo: Wildcat Platform

According to researcher Friederike Spitzenberger, the wildcat – known scientifically as Felis silvestris – is no longer extinct in Austria.

"The population has been verifiably eradicated or has died out (i.e. there are good reasons to believe that their populations are extinct). After the 1950s, as the autochthonous breeding stock died out in Austria, there have only been sporadic and localized reports that probably refer to migrated animals from neighbouring populations. There is currently no sign of a resident reproducing population in Austria."

"As in the case of the lynx, there is a lack of biological investigations into the wildcat in Austria. It would be highly desirable to introduce a wildlife conservation program based on the results of such biological examinations in some of Austria's neighbouring countries, in view of the sound level of knowledge and satisfying conservation status there."

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