Wildcats could be reintroduced to the South West after an absence of more than 100 years, in a project led by the Devon Wildlife Trust. 

The region was one of the last strongholds for wildcats in England, and a preliminary study by conservationists The Vincent Trust has highlighted the South West, and particularly Devon, among the areas where they could once again live in their natural habitat. 

The Devon Wildlife Trust is recruiting a Wildcat Project Officer to further explore the possibility of bringing them back to this area. 

Wildcats were once found throughout the UK but were hunted to extinction in most of England and Wales by the 18th century. A small population may have survived in Exmoor until just over 100 years ago.  

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Director of Nature Recovery Peter Burgess said: “With the appointment of our first ever Wildcat Project Officer we are at the beginning of a process which will explore the return of wildcats to the South West of England. There’s a lot for us to do before this becomes a reality. Much of this will involve working with local communities to see if reintroduction is feasible. As yet we have no scheduled date for any animals to be released. 

“Wildcats are the UK’s rarest mammal and are on the verge of extinction in Scotland - their last refuge. They are now subject to urgent species recovery action – we want to investigate the possibility of the South West being part of this. 

“The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the World. The reintroduction of key species, such as wildcats, is part of our wider work to see wildlife and wild places restored.”    

The role of Devon Wildlife Trust’s Wildcat Project Officer will be to assess the suitability of different localities for the animal’s return. The officer will lead scientific assessments and a social feasibility study, as well as a comprehensive public engagement programme. At every stage of its work the South West Wildcat Project is following best practice guidelines established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on the reintroduction of species. 

The Wildcat Project Officer will be a part-time role based at the Trust’s Exeter HQ. Further details can be found on the Devon Wildlife Trust’s website