New footage has been released showing a rare Scottish wildcat kitten's first wanderings in its enclosure at Chester Zoo in the UK.
The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a species unto itself, and the numbers of the Scottish subspecies (Felis silvestris grampia) have dwindled in the wild to possibly as few as 35, by some estimates. It's considered by some "Britain's last large mammal predator" and its "only remaining wild feline species."
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The animals look much like domestic cats but they are actually hardened and hearty predators that resist domestication even when reared in a captive environment. They've been around in their current form for a couple of million years, but they're close to extinction thanks at first to loss of habitat and death at the hands of humans and more recently to breeding with feral cats.
The breeding between feral domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) and wildcats creates hybrid animals and over time makes originals of the wildcat species harder to come by, drastically reducing the chance of two pure animals mating in the wild. Managed breeding, such as the effort undertaken by Chester Zoo, and feral-neutering programs are among the methods in place to try to save the species, which today is protected under British law.
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Identifying domestic cats vs. wildcats can be tough, even for experts. But, the tail, markings and fur color in key places can help set them apart. Scottish Wildcats has the skinny on how to tell them apart.
With so few "pure" Scottish wildcats left, it makes the video below all the more special. Watch the young kitten come out to join its mom on a tree stump. While the kitten spends most of its time in the clip trying to find good footing on the perch, mom looks, well, less than pleased throughout.