Wildcats are set to be reintroduced to parts of England for the first time in almost 200 years, after they were hunted to extinction for their fur and killed as pests. Known as ‘Devon Tigers’, the animals may be back in the wilds of Devon and Cornwall by 2024.
Similar wildlife reintroduction schemes have been successful in bringing back pine martens, bison and native beavers.
Pete Burgess, of Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “The success of the project will depend on whether communities want to share the landscape with the animals.”
Local farmers have raised fears that the cats will target their livestock, however, experts have denounced this as impossible.
While they are bigger than domestic cats, wildcats are known to be timid and prefer to hunt small rodents.
Currently an 18-month feasibility study is being carried out to assess the risks for all involved.
Mr Burgess added: “We’ll be adhering to Defra’s code for species reintroductions.”
In Scotland there are still a handful of wildcats roaming the hills, however, they are considered to be unsuitable for the reintroduction programme due to interbreeding.
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The rangers did not realise that the female bison was pregnant before she was transported to the UK.
Bison Ranger Tom Gibbs said of the landmark moment: “Lo and behold, this little face popped out from behind the female, and that was the eureka moment.
“It was just unbelievable to think this is the first wild born bison here in England. It was just a monumental moment.”