Hair trapping with valerian-treated lure sticks as a tool for genetic wildcat monitoring in low-density habitats
Wildcats are among the most elusive and least investigated carnivores in Central Europe. Here, we propose a hair-trapping method that allows reliable detection of wildcat presence even in low-density habitats. The trap is simple, consisting of a wooden stick with valerian as cat attractant. We performed non-invasive genetic wildcat monitoring in the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, Germany, between 2007 and 2011. Our results provide the first evidence of wildcat presence in this region. Microsatellite analysis and mtDNA sequencing of hair samples furthermore confirm the existence of at least six individuals (males and females) in the study region. Four individuals were detected over two consecutive years, suggesting the resident status of wildcats in this area. Our results show that the lure stick method releases its full potential when combined with genetic analysis and is a sensitive tool which not only enables the detection of wildcat presence but also provides individual identification, even in recently colonised low-density areas.