Extensive and wild woodland. Plenty of mice and birds on huge open spaces. A choice of bushes to rest in after hunting and old trees with caves ideal for nurseries. Hainich is a picture-book habitat for the rare wildcat.
Small, light clearings, meadows hidden in the woods and calm hedges along the forest skirts are the favourite spots of wildcats. The more diverse inner structures a forest has, the deeper wildcats go and make it their home.
At the moment (2017), around 60 animals live here, and an estimated 300 in the whole of Thuringia. Not that long ago, wildcats lived almost everywhere in Europa. But the wildcat's habitat has diminished considerably. Their last retreat areas are scattered like islands in the sea. Since these areas are often crisscrossed by roads, the most common cause of death of wildcats is being run over by cars.
Hainich National Park is an important stepping stone for the survival and re-dispersion of the elsewhere highly endangered species. Here it finds large, unfragmented woods with plenty of hiding places and a structually rich vegetation with glades, tree hollows and deadwood. They do not like and avoid huge open spaces, for example large agricultural fields with monocultures.
In the autumn, the wildcat offspring embark on their journey to find their own territory. The territories of the male wildcats are with up to 40 km2 significantly larger than those of the females (2 – 11 km2). In order to ensure the wildcat's survival, the BUND has started to create a 20,000 km long "safety net" for the wildcats: green corridors of bushes, trees, shaws along fields, wooded islands and wildlife crossings.
Find more information on the "Safety Net for the European Wildcat" go to the BUND website.
The wildcat looks similar to a tabby domestic cat, but with a bushy black-ringed tail with a dull black tip. It appears much stockier than a domestic cat, and yet the two might be mistaken for one another.
On the top of the wildcat's menu are mice. Only in rare cases it catches birds or reptiles. Wildcats have almost no predators in Thuringia. Only eagle owls and loose dogs can be a danger to them here.
Even our national park rangers get to see these shy nocturnal hunters hardly ever. All visitors of the Wildcat Village Hütscheroda however can see four live specimen of this iconic animal.