Felis silvestrisSchreber, 1777
Felis catus L.: Kovachev, 1925: 22.
Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Endangered EN [A4a,c,e], BDA-III; International: BeC-II, CITES-II, HD-IV.
General distribution. Europe (with a greatly scattered area and without the northern parts), Asia Minor and the Caucasus. The main genetically pure populations are the ones from the Balkans and the Carpatians.
Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. In all mountains at altitudes of up to about 1 500 – 1 600 m, mosaically in the valleys. Maximum density of 0.84 individuals on 1 000 ha. Numbers according to data until the year 2000, but probably also until today, about 4 000 individuals [1, 2]. Sexually mature individuals: a maximum of 1 800 (~ 1 600 non-hybrid). In the forests and the surrounding agricultural lands at altitudes of up to about 1 000 m about 1 100 individuals; over 1 000 m ~ 500 individuals.
Habitats. It prefers old deciduous forests, also in various biotopes.
Biology. The individual female territories are from 200 to 600 ha, and 600 to over 1 000 ha for the males' territories; the latter may include those of 3 – 6 females. 40% of the females breed only in the second year and give birth to about 3-4 cubs. Basic food: mouse-like rodents, often birds [1, 3]. The Northeastern Bulgarian population shows some genetic differences [4, 5].
Similar species. Differences from the domestic form with a "wild" type of coloration: larger body; a thick top and presence of pale rings on the tail, almost without or with pale continuous stripes on the body, etc. . In biochemical and genetic terms, the European Wildcat shows a well-marked alloenzyme differentiation from the domestic cat in Europe. .
Negative factors. Hybridization with feral female domestic cats: probably at least 10 % of the population is represented by phenotypically manifested hybrids , in general, hybridisation in Europe is more advanced [8, 9]); the Bulgarian Forestries Questionnaire, 1989, shows the following: in 42 % of the forestries there are no hybrids, in 51 % they are a rarity, in 7 % (outside the mountains in 11 forestries) they are frequent. The Bulgarian population seems to include also phenotypically hidden hybrids . Intensive felling in old forests and modernization in agriculture in the last 50 years; hunting; fragmentation of the local populations; pressure from the jackal and feral dogs in the valleys; road incidents.
Conservation measures taken. A protected species as of 2007. The protected territories are inhabited by about 20% of the breeding animals. Significant populations exist in the Strandzha Natural Park and the Central Balkans National Park.
Conservation measures taken. Declaration of protected territories and zones in the Balkan range, the Rhodopes, the Ludogorie region, Sredna gora, Pirin as well as in the valley refuges of the species . Ban on the use of forests in protected territories and zones and closed forest basins; restriction of felling and reconstruction in old forests and outside them. Planned increase of the area of centuries-old forests . A common plan with Turkey for the preservation of the forest biota in Strandzha. Reduction of the numbers of feral cats and dogs; genetic studies.
References. 1. Petrov, 1991; 2. Spiridonov, Spassov, 1998; 3. Stahl, Leger, 1992. 4. Markov et al., 2001; 5. Markov et al., 2003a; 6. Spassov, Simeonovski, Spiridonov, 1997; 7. Markov et al., 2003b; 8. Stahl & Artois, 1994; 9. Pierpaoli et al., 2003; 10. Spiridonov, Spassov, 2005; 11. Spiridonov, Raev, 2006.
Authors: Nikolai Spassov, Geko Spiridonov, Georgi Markov