I admire the enthusiasm of Pete Cooper and Derek Gow for reintroducing species such as the beaver and wildcat to our countryside (Should we bring back the wildcats of olde England? August 2018). However, what concerns me is his question: “If we don’t try now, then when?”
Rushing into reintroductions now ignores the implications of the species spreading into the wider countryside. What happens to the animals’ offspring once they spread to neighbouring land and beyond? We talk a lot about connectivity and habitat fragmentation; we need more evidence that we can provide this, especially for reintroductions. If we get it wrong, it is the animals who will suffer for it. Phil Maund, Isles of Scilly
Pete Cooper replies: continental experience shows wildcats are on the increase – even in fragmented, populated landscapes – and we now have as much woodland cover as we did in 1750 when wildcats were still found throughout England and Wales. However, good woodland habitat that's connected is still ideal. If an English/Welsh release was to go ahead, careful modelling would need to be done to establish the best linked-up areas of natural habitat. The wildcat can be a flagship animal to drive creation of such corridors, as in the 'wildcat leap' project in Germany.