/ Wild cats on the Cuillin Ridge
Interesting and somewhat surprising. What on earth would a wild cat be doing up there!? There can't be much in the way of prey that high.
Maybe they're waiting to feast on unsuspecting Cuillineers?
Either way, I'm intrigued - for some reason I had it in my head that they were extinct.
On the basis of the following, I'd have said it sounds unlikely to be a wildcat.
No recorded sightings on Skye during the 2006-2008 survey period either, though of course that doesn't mean there aren't any.
Wildcats live in habitats that satisfy two main requirements: shelter and food.
Woodlands and areas of dense gorse or juniper thickets provide shelter and resting places. Young forestry plantations in particular are an important habitat for wildcats because they are protected from grazing and support a high density of small mammal prey. Rocky areas also provide den shelters for female wildcats during the breeding season.
Wildcats require open patches of habitat, such as pastures or riparian areas, for hunting. However, when moving around their territories, they prefer to avoid open areas, using woodland or scrub and stream edges for cover.
Heavy snow makes it difficult for wildcats to move around or catch prey, and if there is deep snow on the ground for long periods, wildcats will move to forested areas or lower altitudes, where there is typically less snow cover.
The Scottish wildcat will venture to an altitude of around 800 metres but it is not generally found higher than 650 metres. It avoids heavily urbanized areas, areas of intense agriculture and exposed coasts.
The habitat used by the Scottish wildcat differs regionally. In the east of Scotland, wildcats prefer the margins of moorlands, pasturelands and woodlands, whereas in the west they prefer uplands with rough grazing and moorlands with limited pastures. These differences are due to the type of prey and cover available in these areas. For example, low rabbit densities in the west of Scotland mean that the wildcat needs to hunt voles and mice that are found in greater concentrations in areas of rough pasture, scrub and woodland edges.
It's a bit hard to tell from your photo, but I think a fox is a more likely suspect in this case!
Is it definitely not a dog?
I've seen foxes on the Skye ridge in the past
Given that there's a Sgurr a' Mhadaidh on the ridge, that shouldn't be a surprise! :-)
.....and there are no wildcats on Skye
> Maybe they're waiting to feast on unsuspecting Cuillineers?
> Either way, I'm intrigued - for some reason I had it in my head that they were extinct.
I thought its debated if any exist.. due to cross breeding with domestic cats?
But that there are still 'wild cats'.. if that makes sense..
> .....and there are no wildcats on Skye
Maybe it was on holiday.
> Given that there's a Sgurr a' Mhadaidh on the ridge, that shouldn't be a surprise! :-)
It never occurred to me before that there's no Sgurr a' (insert Gaelic for wild cat here). Maybe that's a tribute to the secretive nature of wildcats, rather than their disinclination to go above 650 metres, though.
Read the document that has been linked by me and Slugain Howff.
I can think of a Lochan nan Cat, near Ben Lawers.
Foxes patrol and mark thier terratorial boundaries.....these seam to be often ridge tops. I'm assuming here, but snowy conditions would allow them to quickly identify any incursions into thier terratory and would be a blank canvas which they would want to mark again, to define thier patch.
We had our camp investigated by a fox when bivvying above Coire a' Ghrunnda. At least I assumed it was a fox snuffling around - I was too scared to look for fear it was a troll! :)
I can imagine foxes on the Cuillin in summer but I'm having a harder time picturing it in winter. How does the British fox get on with snow and cold temps?
Come to think of it, no one has suggested the possibility of a Yeti? But the prints are probably too small
No problem, really: red foxes live in much colder climates in North America and Scandanavia, for example. Fox prints are by no means an uncommon sight in the Scottish hills in winter, though the animals themselves tend to be quite elusive. They survive by supplementing their diet of voles, hares and insects with scavenging carrion: see the 4th chart down on here http://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/red_fox_diets.html for some data from the Cairngorms.
> Baby Yeti?
Of course! The obvious is often staring you in the face!
and some raised footprints (different location):
and what could these be?!
Mountain hare. The pattern of two offset prints and two inline behind is very distinctive. In softer snow, the offset front pair are noticeably bigger: these are actually the rear legs which land ahead of the front legs when the hare is running.
> and some raised footprints (different location):
> and what could these be?!
Definitely bird-like. Ptarmigan or grouse, possibly.
I've seen small mammals, about vole/mouse size up on the ridge, but not in winter.
I have seen a vole/mouse running along a ski runnel-track in February on Helvellyn - too fast for my eyes to distinguish.
Beinn a' Chait, Meall a' Chait, Creag a' Chait, Eag a' Chait...?
Aye, not sure where any of those are but they're certainly named for cats!
> Mountain hare. The pattern of two offset prints and two inline behind is very distinctive. In softer snow, the offset front pair are noticeably bigger: these are actually the rear legs which land ahead of the front legs when the hare is running.
> Also hare!
thanks, so these are rear?
i know prints expand, but seems pretty large (~2.5" width from centre of pads)
> Definitely bird-like. Ptarmigan or grouse, possibly.
yeah, i thought ptarmigan, bit notice the two central claws..
There's a Beinn a' Chait in Atholl and Eag a'Chait is the glacial channel between Castle Hill and Airgiod-meall in the Cairngorms, the others I don't know but they came up when I googled it to make sure what it meant.
And then there's BEARSden near Glasgow. And the TIGER T in Glenshee...
From memory, there are 129 names in Gaelic with some cat form in them and about 20 of them are on the islands. However, these would not be pure wildcats and more a wild living cat.
I believe Drum Shionnach means 'ridge of the wolf'. And talking of Glen Shiel, Am Faochag apparently means 'the whelk', though there were none up there when I climbed it.
Druim, not Drum.
And Sionnach means fox, rather than wolf, I think (Donald can perhaps confirm).
Yeah fox not wolf. Madadh-alaidh is a wolf.
I actually have a map of all the "a' chait" and "nan cat" names which I can maybe link to here. It's on my work computer though so wont be til tomorrow.
> i know prints expand, but seems pretty large (~2.5" width from centre of pads)
You're welcome! Yes, they are surprisingly big, and splay out wide when weighted. It actually appears to be an adaptation to snowy habitats: brown hares' feet are smaller.
I think that might be a result of the wind erosion somehow.
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