Farmers fear ‘Devon Tiger’ wildcats returning to UK will massacre live stock

Wildcats could soon be on the prowl near towns in England for the first time in nearly two centuries.

The so-called Devon Tigers are set to be reintroduced in the south, where they were previously killed as pests and hunted for their fur.

They could be stalking the woodlands of Devon and Cornwall as soon as 2024.

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It follows the success of schemes to bring back native beavers, bison and pine martens.

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.”

The wildcats are bigger than domestic moggies – and some farmers fear they could scare livestock or even eat sheep, but experts claim that would never happen.

In fact, the timid felines prefer to stay hidden and usually only hunt small rodents.

Pete said an 18-month feasibility study is under way to assess the risks. He added: “We’ll be adhering to Defra’s code for species reintroductions.”

A handful of wildcats can still be found in remote parts of Scotland, but that population is no longer seen as viable due to interbreeding.

Devon Wildlife Trust now plans to recruit a £17,000 part-time Wildcat Officer to mastermind the project.

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The reintroduction of animals into the wild that once roamed freely has been shown to rejuvenate the natural landscape of rural areas in a process known as re-wilding.

In October of this year, the first wild bison was born in UK for more than a thousand years after three bison were released into the Kent wildlife, in July.

Unbeknownst to the rangers, 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.”


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