How To Hunt A Serval Cat

You'll never hunt several servals - one of these artful cats in the salt is stress enough for any hunter

Serval hunting is mostly done by an experienced African hunter who specifically wants this cat to complete his trophy collection. The serval has probably eluded him a few times, so has become a 'hunting mission' leading him to do hunts solely for a serval.

The serval is a beautifully spotted, medium sized cat which is not commonly hunted on an African plains game hunt. It is an elusive and nocturnal animal, rarely seen in the day. If you do come across one by chance, while hunting something else in South Africa or Namibia, do not shoot it. Why? Because you must have a special hunt permit in your hand to be allowed to hunt for and take a serval in these countries.

Serval Trophy Minimums

Leptailurus serval (Serval)
RW Minimum RW Record RW Measurement Method SCI Minimum SCI Record SCI Measurement Method
71/2" 101/4" 17 6" 1010/16" 15

Where To Hunt A Serval

  • Serval are available to hunt in South Africa, but not on the off chance if you happen to see one while hunting something else. You must have a special TOPS permit in your hand to be allowed to hunt for and take a serval. If you don't have a valid permit, the hunt will be investigated and no export permit issued for the trophy. Do not be taken in by any promises to get a permit after shooting a serval. Even if you see 10 serval on the property you are hunting and beg the Game Department for a permit during your hunt, you are likely to be unlucky and refused a permit.
  • Within South Africa, the best areas for serval occur in Mpumalanga, KZN and Limpopo. So if you are going to be hunting a likely serval area and think you might like to take one, on the off chance while on a plains game hunt, ask your outfitter to apply for a serval permit in advance.
  • Hunting a serval in Namibia also requires a special hunt permit which must be obtained by the outfitter before the hunt.
  • You can also hunt serval in Zimbabwe, on a 16, 21 or 28 day hunting licence in Tanzania and in Ethiopia, providing you buy the non-refundable hunting licence ahead of time.
  • Mozambique stopped all small African cat hunting, including the serval, in 2010.

Serval Hunting Prices

  • There is a huge variation in trophy fees for serval from US$250 up to the US$2200 mark. The least expensive serval are to be found in Namibia.
  • The Tanzanian Government trophy fee for serval is US$300 + the anti-poaching/community development fees.
  • The best advice if you are very interested in hunting serval, is to first check whether there are frequent sightings of serval in the hunting area. Then has the outfitter/PH got a good track record of hunting these cats. Just because they appear on a trophy list doesn't mean they have ever been actively hunted by anyone.
  • Some hunting companies have gained a good reputation for hunting those tricky small animals that nobody usually hunts, so it is a good idea to seek out one of these outfits. They really know the serval-rich habitats and have developed hunting methods that generally work for them.
  • Also check if you have a realistic chance of getting a serval within your hunt time using whatever hunting method is advised. Unless a place is crawling with serval, a 3 day spot & stalk only hunt might be a bit too hopeful.
  • There are outfitters who offer short serval (+ another small animal) hunt packages using dogs.

Serval Hunting Methods

  • Spot and stalk serval hunting is difficult but can be attempted in areas where there are known to be lots of animals. You will need to be very stealthy and able to pull off a quick shot. If the serval is out hunting for small rodents or birds, he might be springing high in the air and dodging round bushes.
  • Still hunting may be an easier method of serval hunting. Servals are very attracted to fields in agricultural areas because lots of mice live in amongst the crops. Better still for the serval, when the crops are cut, the mice are easier for them to find. So in South Africa, with the farmer's permission, an outfitter may recommend staking out some newly cut fields at night. The additional use a spot light and a call may bring the serval in towards you, so offering a better shot.
  • In South Africa, trophy hunting may take place at night and is allowed with artificial light, provided that the hunter has a night hunting permit. Unless the landowner has an exemption, the night hunting permit is only given on special request, after the hunter has clearly stipulated the reason for night hunting.
  • In other countries such as Namibia, trophy hunting may only be done between half an hour before sunrise until half an hour after sunset and no artificial light is allowed. So serval hunting will be best attempted at dawn or dusk, just after or just before their nocturnal meanderings.
  • As mentioned before, hounds can be used to hunt serval in South Africa. In Zimbabwe hunting with hounds is only allowed on private land with a dog hunting permit which costs extra. Hunting with hounds is not permitted in Namibia, Tanzania or Ethiopia.

A Good Serval Trophy

  • Any obviously full grown serval will be a good trophy.

Serval Shot Placement

  • Cats have their hearts very slightly further back than most animals and as usual, heart and lungs are the largest target area.
  • If the animal is standing at right angles to you, bring your crosshairs up the foreleg and divide the body in half and then in half again and the centre of the heart will be found at the top of that first (lowest) dividing line, but just behind the foreleg The lungs extend to slightly above the mid way line.
  • If the animal is at an obtuse angle to you, remember the previous rule and aim at the opposite shoulder and you'll hit the same area.
  • If the animal is standing facing away from you, and you feel confident of the shot, aim at the root of the tail where it joins the body.
  • If the animal is facing you, aim for the central chest area where the bottom of the neck leaves the body.

Serval Male Vital Statistics

  • Shoulder Height: 20-26" / 54-66cm
  • Weight: 20-40lbs / 9-18kg

Serval Habitat and Requirements

  • Serval prefer grass savannah with plentiful water. They are also to be found in dry reed beds near streams and in high-altitude moorlands and bamboo thickets.

Serval Social Structure

  • Servals are solitary cats which patrol a territory and come together in pairs only for mating.
  • Serval travel quite widely each night in search of food which mainly consists of mice and other rodents. If the opportunity arises, a serval will also eat birds, hares, hyraxes, lizards, insects, fish and frogs, all of which are devoured whole. When hunting birds, a serval repeatedly tosses the bird in the air and shakes it on catching it again, removing clumps of feathers, which it spits out.
  • The serval is able to purr and has gives various calls from chirps, hisses to growls.

Serval Gestation Period

  • After a gestation period of around 66 to 77 days, usually 2 offspring are born.

Serval Gender Identification

  • The males are taller and heavier than females.
  • Both sexes are slender, with long legs and a short tail. The head is small in relation to the body with big oval ears are set close together. The serval has black spots on tawny background, with two or four stripes from the top of the head down the neck and back. The backs of the ears are black with a distinctive white bar.

Serval Image Gallery

Click Images To Enlarge
Serval Serval Serval

Serval Trophy Permits (2015)

Leptailurus serval (Serval)
CITES II Export Permit CITES II Export Permit Annex B CITES II Export Permit & Import Permit

Serval Trophy Taxidermy

  • The only way to display the serval is as a full mount with habitat.
  • As serval are not commonly hunted, try to find a taxidermist with some experience with small African cats.
Click images to enlarge
Serval Full Mount Serval Full Mount
Taxidermy photos courtesy of Life-Form Taxidermy

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