The Czech Republic holds a strategic position in terms of the current area of distribution of wild cats in Central Europe. A smaller population lives on the border with Germany, which was supported on the Bavarian side by reintroduction in the 1980s and 1990s, i.e. by releasing new individuals back into nature. From the east, cats can come to the Czech Republic from the Carpathian population.
According to genetic analysis, the male found near Nový Knín belonged to the Bavarian population of wild cats. “Dobříš is an area that is not directly connected to the border or the area of occurrence in neighboring states, which could be proof that this is not just a rare occurrence of an individual who wandered to us from Germany,” says zoologist Jarmila Krojerová of the Institute of Vertebrate Biology AV ČR. This was confirmed by those who found the dead animal: they found a similar-looking cat striked down here last May.
According to existing records, the wild cat was commonly hunted in the Dobříš region in the middle of the 18th century. The last time a shot wild cat was mentioned was in the local archives in 1914, but it was an individual released from human breeding. Until now, it was considered extinct in this area.
The wild cat is a secretive species that can easily escape attention. Reporting to the public helps scientists document the occurrence of the predator even in areas where more detailed monitoring is not taking place. “We know about the presence of the wild cat in our country thanks to records from photo traps, used to monitor large carnivores, especially the lynx. They proved its movements on the Czech-Slovak border in the area of the White Carpathians and Javorníky, but also in the Šumava or Doupov Mountains. The finding in the Dobříš region confirms our assumptions that the wild cat has returned to Bohemia and Moravia after a long period of time and has found a suitable habitat,” says zoologist Martin Duľa from the Department of Forest Ecology, Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology, Mendel University in Brno.
Genetics is key
The characteristics that distinguish a wild cat from a domestic cat are well known. However, accurate determination complicates the possible occurrence of hybrids between the two species. “Both species can easily breed with each other and have fertile offspring. Determining these hybrid individuals according to their appearance is difficult even for experienced professionals. Only a properly performed DNA analysis can help,” explains Jarmila Krojerová from the Department of Zoology, Fisheries, Hydrobiology, and Beekeeping, Faculty of Agriculture, MENDELU, who has long been involved in genetic analysis of both our felines, wild cats and the lynx.
How can the public help?
Project We are looking for a cat, careful, a wild one! is a joint project of the Institute of Vertebrate Biology AV ČR, the Bojnice National Zoo, and the DUHA movement Olomouc. The project is financially supported by the Interreg cross-border cooperation program. It focuses on the occurrence of wild cats, especially on the Czechoslovak border, but zoologists are collecting information on the occurrence of this rare predator from other parts of the Czech Republic.
“Despite intensive monitoring, information from the public is important in many ways, so please report any observation of a wild cat, discovery of its tracks, or a dead animal that shows the typical features of this predator. The public can thus be directly involved in the monitoring of a protected and rare animal species,” adds Martin Duľa.
Contact for more information: Martin Duľa, Department of Forest Ecology, Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology MENDELU, firstname.lastname@example.org, +420 770 137 635
Jarmila Krojerová, Department of Zoology, Fisheries, Hydrobiology, and Beekeeping, Faculty of Agriculture, MENDELU, email@example.com, +420 737 609 004.
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