Felis silvestris (Schreber 1777) Wild Cat
Hebrew name: חתול בר, hatul bar
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: VU (A1e) – Vulnerable
Distribution area: Wild cats are found throughout the country, although the difficulty in distinguishing between pure wild individuals and hybrids with domestic cats makes it hard to be specific.
Historic distribution: Wild cats were found throughout the country. Tristram (1884) wrote that the wild cat is not common west of the Jordan, but is abundant east of it, and is probably the source of the domestic cat found today throughout Palestine (in Ilani 1979). Bodenheimer (1958) noted that the species is still common on hills and woodlands in rocky landscapes in Israel (in Ilani 1979).
Typical Habitat: Mediterraniean woodland and rocky slopes up to an altitude of 1800 m. (Mt. Hermon); flowing streams and vegetation-rich wadis in the desert, except in shifting sand areas (Ilani 1979).
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Hybridization with feral cats and competitive exclusion by them.
2. Sensitivity to diseases that feral cats are resistant to (Mendelssohn & Yom-Tov 1999).
Population Size Estimate: Ilani (1979) estimated the population in Israel and Sinai at 3000 or more. Mendelssohn &Yom-Tov (1999) estimated that the population density in open oak forest parks, on hills and rocks at one wild cat per km2. The current population is probably only a few thousand.
Fluctuations in Population Size: The hybrid-free population is small. In 2000 blood samples were taken for genetic testing from the wild cat population in the Zenifim and Zihor wadis, and its results will show if these remote populations are pure.
Isolation between Subpopulations: Unknown.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Exterminating feral cats in settlements, army bases and their surroundings.
2. Preserving large nature reserves with no settlements and army bases in them.