A wildlife charity is looking for an expert to judge whether wildcats can be reintroduced to Devon for the first time in hundreds of years.
The Devon Wildlife Trust said it was recruiting a "wildcat project officer" to study different locations in the county for the return of the once-native predator.
Wildcats were driven to extinction in England and Wales by the 18th Century.
The trust said the Devon landscape was one of the mammal's "last strongholds".
European wildcats are stockier than the domestic cat with a fluffier tail and distinct body markings.
Wildcats, now the UK's rarest animal, once played an important ecological role in the countryside, the trust said.
A small population exists in the north of Scotland, but it has been called "functionally extinct" due to interbreeding with domestic cats.
Peter Burgess, the charity's director of nature recovery, said appointing an expert was the first step in a wider plan to reintroduce the species.
The wildcat project officer will carry out scientific assessments, a social feasibility study and conduct public consultation.
"There's a lot for us to do before this becomes a reality," Mr Burgess said.
"Much of this will involve working with local communities to see if reintroduction is feasible.
"As yet, we have no scheduled date for any animals to be released."