Scottish Wildcat Day Date in the current year: August 8, 2024

Scottish Wildcat Day Scottish Wildcat Day is observed in the United Kingdom on August 8. It was created to raise awareness of the plight of a critically endangered feline that is threatened by habitat loss, hunting, hybridization with domestic cats, and infectious diseases.

The Scottish wildcat, also known as the Highland tiger, is the population of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris) in Scotland. While the European wildcat in general is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a least-concern species, the Scottish wildcat is considered critically endangered in its home country.

The European wildcat was once distributed throughout all of Great Britain. Its population began to decline around the 16th century, mostly because wildcats were considered vermin and were killed to protect game birds. By the early 20th century, its range had declined to northwestern Scotland. Following a decrease in game hunting after the World War I, the range of the Scottish wildcat increased to include northern and eastern Scotland. Unfortunately, its further expansion was prevented by industrialization and urbanization.

Today, Scottish wildcats live in forests, shrublands and near forest edges in Aberdeenshire, the Angus Glens, Ardanmurchan, the Black Isle, and the Cairngorms. They are larger, heavier, and more robust than domestic cats; the average female wildcat is about the size of the average male domestic cat. Their tabby pattern is also different from the tabby pattern of domestic cats: Scottish wildcats have solid stripes on the cheeks and hind legs and distinct tail bands, but no dorsal stripe on the tail and no white spots.

The Scottish wildcat has been protected in the United Kingdom since 1981. It is listed as critically endangered and is thought to be functionally extinct because all Scottish wildcats sampled in recent years are, in fact, hybrids with feral and domestic cats.

Interbreeding with domestic and feral cats is the main threat faced by the Scottish wildcat. Other threats include habitat loss, being hunted as vermin, road accidents, and infectious diseases transmitted by domestic cats, such as feline coronavirus, feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus, feline foamy virus, feline leukemia virus, and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Conservation efforts for the Scottish wildcat include captive breeding programs, neutering feral cats to prevent interbreeding, and euthanizing diseased feral cats to prevent the spread of infection. In the summer of 2023, 22 captive-bred Scottish wildcats were released into the Cairngorms region. As of 2023, there were also plans to reintroduce the European wildcat to England (Cornwall and Devon).

The origins of Scottish Wildcat Day are unclear, but it has been observed since at least 2018. Its main goals are to raise awareness of the threats faced by the Scottish wildcat population and support Scottish wildcat conservation efforts. You can get involved by learning more about the Scottish wildcat, donating to a conservation organization that works to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction, and spreading the word on social media with the hashtag #ScottishWildcatDay.

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Scottish Wildcat Day, observances in the UK, environmental observances, unofficial holidays, nature conservation