German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Animals, plants and fungi

Conservation status of the wildcat in Germany

Wildcat spreading again and other mammals doing well

The wildcat, once common throughout Germany, had been pushed back by destruction and isolation of its habitats into a small number of near-natural, forest-rich regions. Recently, however, new sightings have been recorded, and the conservation status of the species has slightly improved. Other mammal species, too, have comparatively favourable conservation status.

The European wildcat (Felis silvestris) has its centre of distribution in Germany and on account of its endangerment is one of the species for which Germany bears international responsibility. It is also listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive and is thus among the species strictly protected under European law. The wildcat was once found almost throughout Germany. The main distribution range extends today notably across the forests in the Harz, Kyffhäuser, Hainich and Solling regions and further west through the Eifel, Hunsrück, Pfälzer Wald and Taunus.

Wildcat populations slowly recovering

The wildcat is an example of a spreading animal species that is gradually recovering from formerly very poor conservation status. The population in Germany is estimated at 5,000 to 7,000 individuals, which means the species is still considered rare. The conservation status in the Continental region has been improved in recent years by conservation measures such as 'wildcat corridors' connecting suitable forest habitats. The wildcat does not occur in the Alpine region and in the Atlantic region it is only found at the southern periphery in the transition to the low mountain ranges.

Diverse causes of threat to wildcat

Wildcats favour large, structurally rich deciduous and mixed forest with a large proportion of dead wood. Causes of threat to the once widespread species include road and rail traffic, the destruction and fragmentation of suitable habitats, and the isolation of areas in which wildcats are found. Human settlements and large areas of intensive farmland create almost insurmountable barriers to the spread of the species and to genetic exchange.

Overall, mammals do comparatively well in the assessment of conservation status under the Habitats Directive. Nearly 30 percent of species in the Atlantic and Continental region and 40 percent in the Alpine region have favourable conservation status.