EUROPA – ENDANGERED WILD ANIMALS
Wildcat (Felis silvestris)
One of the few forest-dwelling members of the genus Felis of the cat family. It lives in sparsely inhabited forest areas across Europe, with the exception of Scandinavia. It is found throughout Slovenia except in the high Alpine area. It is most common in forested areas of southern Slovenia.
It is a close relative of the domestic cat, which developed through domestication of the African wildcat. The wildcat is similar in appearance to the domestic tabby but is larger, stronger, with longer, thicker fur and a bushy tail. It has three to five black rings on its tail and the tip of the tail is bushy and black.
The wildcat’s habitat consists of deciduous, conifer and mixed forests. It frequently inhabits steep rocky forested slopes exposed to the sun, where it has plenty of hiding places and conditions are favourable even in winter. It avoids humans and areas of human activity.
The wildcat breeding season is in February. This is the only time of the year when males and females come together. Otherwise, they are solitary and territorial creatures. They mark their own territory with urine and droppings and defend it against other animals of the same sex. In May, female wildcats bear litters of two to six blind kittens in crevices, abandoned badger’s setts or hollow tree trunks.
Forest loss and fragmentation and deforestation are among the principal threats to the wildcat in Europe, along with the simultaneous spread of the domestic cat and hybridisation with it.
Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus)
The largest member of the grouse family found in Slovenia. The male differs considerably in terms of size and colouring from the considerably smaller, speckled female. The cock has a distinctive fan-shaped tail and plumage of a dark metallic colour. The wings are dark brown with a white spot on the wing bow.
It is typically found in quiet, mature mixed or conifer forests with open canopies in which there is sufficient ground vegetation, particularly berries. Adults are herbivores. In winter they feed almost exclusively on conifer needles, while in summer they eat buds, leaves, flowers and the fruits of various herbs and shrubs. In contrast to adults, capercaillie chicks in the first few weeks of life mainly feed on ant and moth larvae.
The capercaillie’s breeding season runs from April to mid-May and takes place in so-called courting grounds. In this period, the cock utters a distinctive call and fans its tail feathers, so as to indicate its own courting area and attract females. Cocks and hens gather in the courting grounds and the males compete with each other for the females. The hen birds make a simple nest on the ground.
Capercaillie numbers have at least halved in the last four decades. At one time they inhabited the majority part of the hill areas of Slovenia. There are several reasons for the current situation, from changes in forests and an increase in disturbances in forest areas to an increase in predator numbers and global warming.