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Germain, E.
Approche ‚co-‚thologique de l'hybridation entre le Chat forestier d'Europe (_Felis silvestris silvestris_) et le Chat domestique (_Felis catus_)
2004  Full Book

Hybridisation with the domestic cat is one of the main threats to the European wildcat. However, the context in which hybridisation occurs and the role played by the hybrids themselves are not much known. We studied simultaneously the eco-ethology of European wildcats, domestic cats and their hybrids from the analysis of the places of collection of 73 cats with wildcat phenotype, and by radio-tracking 22 individuals equipped with radio-collars in the Ardennes region. The genotype of all the cats collected and radio-tracked was determined. In France, the distribution of wildcats and hybrids were similar. On the other hand, if the wildcats' presence seemed to be linked to forest cover, the one of hybrids was not linked to a specific type of habitat. Moreover, the analysis of 65 stomach contents indicated that hybrids eat, mainly rodents, as wildcats, but also human-linked food, as domestic cats. Besides, hybrids resembled wildcats concerning spatial use and habitat selection whereas domestic cats havd smaller home ranges centred on farms. The activity rhythms of the three types of cats did not differ but concordance in space use was low. Thus, hybridization should occur essentially during punctual excursions. As hybrids seem, from an ecological and a behavioural point of view, to be close to wildcats but to be more flexible than them, their potential role in the conservation of the European wildcat is discussed.

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