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Protected mammals - Scottish wildcat

A wildcat advice note  PDF document  for developers is available in a handy pdf format. The note brings together all the latest information and advice, including legal protection, survey methods, mitigation measures and licensing requirements.

The note is also relevant to land managers planning work under funded schemes such as the agri-environment programme.

What are they?

The Scottish wildcat is the last surviving native member of the cat family to be found in the wild in Britain.  It was listed in the Species Action Framework for conservation effort in an attempt to improve its habitat and reduce threats of cross breeding with feral domestic cats. 

The Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan launched in September 2013 aims to restore viable populations of this species north of the Highland boundary fault.  It covers six years (2013 - 2019) and will be updated periodically.

Find out more about the Scottish wildcat...

How are they protected?

Wildcats are classed as European protected species and are fully protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended).  This lists a number of offences in relation to wildcats and the places in which they live.


The following provides a summary of the offences in the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) in relation to wildcats. 

It is an offence to deliberately or recklessly:

  • capture, injure, kill or harass a wildcat;
  • disturb a wildcat in a den or any other structure or place it uses for shelter or protection;
  • disturb a wildcat while it is rearing or otherwise caring for its young;
  • obstruct access to a den or other structure or place wildcats use for shelter or protection or to otherwise deny the animal use of that place;
  • disturb a wildcat in a manner that is, or in circumstances which are, likely to significantly affect the local distribution or abundance of the species;
  • disturb a wildcat in a manner that is, or in circumstances which are, likely to impair its ability to survive, breed or reproduce, or rear or otherwise care for its young.

It is also an offence to:

  • damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal (note that this does not need to be deliberate or reckless to constitute an offence);
  • keep, transport, sell or exchange or offer for sale or exchange any wildcat or any part or derivative of one (if obtained after 10 June 1994).

Licensing and wildcats

Licences are available to allow specified people to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence.  As with any European protected species, licences can only be issued for specific purposes that are set out in the legislation.  If you are planning any activities that could affect wildcats or the places they use, you should make sure that you stay within the law.

If you are proposing to undertake an action that might otherwise constitute an offence, you may need a licence and should refer to our licensing and wildcats pages.


*Please Note* The summary of legislation and list of offences on this page are not comprehensive, and is intended for use as a guide only. For a definitive list of offences you should consult the actual legislation. It is also important to note that this is the law in Scotland, elsewhere in the UK the legislation may differ.

Last updated on Wednesday 28th June 2017 at 10:22 AM. Click here to comment on this page