Novel criteria to evaluate European wildcat observations from camera traps and other visual material
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Museo di Storia Naturale della Maremma
Museo Friulano di Storia Naturale
Online publication date: 2022-06-24
Publication date: 2022-06-24
Corresponding author
Andrea Sforzi   

Museo di Storia Naturale della Maremma
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2022;33(2):202-204
The increasing role of camera trapping studies in animal ecology and wildlife conservation has fostered the need of reliable methods to correctly identify wild-living animals through pictures and videos. Despite some species being easily recognizable due to their distinctive appearance, for others gauging the identification process only on phenotypic characters poses clear limits. This species-dependent process can introduce potential biases at the 6th order of detection. In the case of the European wildcat, both pictures or videos are not sufficient to discriminate with absolute certainty wildcats from domestic cats or their hybrids. Nevertheless, to take the most from the available visual documentation, it is worth interpreting any information, from a wild phenotype to a domestic one, through a cline of intermediate variations. Here we propose novel criteria developed within the Italian national wildcat project, aimed at standardizing the evaluation and classification process of photos and videos concerning the European wildcat. Specific expertise on the identification of the species is needed to correctly apply them. However, while a simple wild/not-wild approach at classifying European wildcat photos and videos can be misleading, a more accurate set of different categories based on objective evidence make the best use of the available visual documentation, representing a standard protocol applicable in different geographical contexts.
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