Wild cats could return to England for first time in almost 200 years

They have been driven to the verge of extinction in Britain, but after nearly two centuries, wildcats may soon return to England.

So-called Devon Tigers could be released in the county by 2024. They are similar to a domestic tabby but are larger, stockier and with a bushy tail.

The wildcat is Britain's only remaining native cat. Its last redoubt is in the Scottish Highlands.

The Devon Wildlife Trust, which is behind the plan, has advertised for a Wildcat Officer, asking if applicants 'would like to be at the forefront of a radical species recovery programme and play a pivotal role in reversing the fortunes of Britain's rarest mammal'.

The Devon Wildcat Project is a partnership between Devon Wildlife Trust, Wildwood Trust, Derek Gow Consultancy and Forestry England. Pete Burgess, of the Devon Wildlife Trust, said an 18-month feasibility study is under way.

He added: 'The success of the project will depend on whether communities want to share the landscape with the animals.

'It's only a couple of hundred years ago they were commonplace around England. That's a blink of an eye in ecological terms'.

Mr Gow said the earliest likely reintroduction would be in 2024 or 2025.

'In this country we have killed everything,' he added. 'To re-establish an animal like this we have managed to scour from the face of this island, it will require hundreds if not thousands of reintroductions of wildcats throughout the landscape.'