While still endangered in Germany, wildcats are slowly multiplying – especially in the large western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), environment organisation BUND told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.
There are thought to be around 300 prowling around, particularly in Lohmar and Teutoburg forests and along the border of neighbouring state Hesse. Wildcat droppings have even been found in leafier areas on the outskirts of Bonn and Cologne.
BUND staff have been smearing pieces of wood with a valerian tincture – a herb that wildcats love – in an attempt to count them, they told the newspaper. “It stinks like old socks,” said Holger Sticht, chairman of the state's branch.
Wildcats used to be common across Germany, but much of their habitat has been turned into farmland or even urbanised, leaving them endangered.
But now thanks to “protected areas, netted greenways and educational campaigns within the hunting community we've given wildcats a hand,” Peter Schütz from the state's environment ministry told the WAZ.
They are still at risk though. Schütz said that they were recognisable “from their body and head shape, which is beefier than a house cat, and their bushier tail with a blunt end.”
Spotting one would be a stroke of luck though, “wildcats are incredibly shy,” said Schütz. If it doesn't run away, he said, it's probably a house cat.