/ Wild cats on the Cuillin Ridge

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David Barratt - on 18 Mar 2013
I was up on the Cuillin Ridge over the weekend and saw some prints which looked suspiciously feline... anyone any experience of spotting/identifying wild cats? would they often venture on to the ridge? http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=215658
Trangia - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:

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.
Tall Clare - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Trangia:

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.
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:

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.

http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/naturallyscottish/wildcats.pdf
Habitat:
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.
Mark Bull - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:

It's a bit hard to tell from your photo, but I think a fox is a more likely suspect in this case!
David Barratt - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt: Got a few more photos on FB, made the album public (for now). I've emailed scottish wild cats website and might email SNH as well. don't think sightings are too rare, just not sure about this location! https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151179674296801.436462.581586800&type=3#!/photo.php?...
Emz on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt: I agree with Mark, they look like fox-prints to me.
David Barratt - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Mark Bull: is a fox more likely to venture up there, the photo in the link above shows the steep section it came up/left the ridge. wish I actually seen it, even if it was just a fox.
Tall Clare - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:

Is it definitely not a dog?
David Barratt - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Tall Clare: Fairly certain it is wild. We saw no people and the snow was completly undisturbed other than these prints. so if it was a dog, it was a very brave, very lost dog.
Slugain Howff - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:

I've seen foxes on the Skye ridge in the past
David Barratt - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Slugain Howff: Well that sounds most likely then. I recognise that user name... won't go there!
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Slugain Howff:

Given that there's a Sgurr a' Mhadaidh on the ridge, that shouldn't be a surprise! :-)
Slugain Howff - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:


.....and there are no wildcats on Skye
Slugain Howff - on 18 Mar 2013
David Barratt - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Slugain Howff: That's fairly conclusive then. I'm guessing the foxes that would venture up there are quite different to the ones in the city!
IainRUK - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:
> (In reply to Trangia)
>
> 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..

tom_in_edinburgh - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Slugain Howff:
> (In reply to David Barratt)
> .....and there are no wildcats on Skye

Maybe it was on holiday.
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:
> (In reply to Slugain Howff)
>
> 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.

jcm
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to IainRUK:

> thought its debated if any exist.. due to cross breeding with domestic cats?

Read the document that has been linked by me and Slugain Howff.
Douglas Griffin - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

I can think of a Lochan nan Cat, near Ben Lawers.
Jim Braid - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt: More likely fox. Saw one when on Sgurr na Stri and I was descending SW to Camasunary.
ScraggyGoat on 18 Mar 2013
Haven't looked at your photo, but I've seen fox prints along many ridges on the West coast, Five sisters and other Shiel ridges (including the Forcan), plus Knoydart and Morar. I've also seen a fox in winter on top of one of the Affric munro's. Slightly less startling than seeing a pine martin rush out of one of the summit cairns on the Fannichs.

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.
ring ouzel on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt: Nice photo David! You can clearly see a large 'X' through the footprints and this would indicate a fox to me. If you try and put an X shape between the pads of dog or cat it doesn't work without going through one or more of the pads.
Tom Last - on 18 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:

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! :)
Nath93 - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt: Saw similar kind of prints on the Northern end of the ridge around Coire a Bhasteir last Saturday, i'd reckon its most likely a fox print too.
Cameron94 on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt: Myself and Nath93 saw quite a few of these tracks around the Coire A' Bhasteir area. I had no idea what they were from at the time resulting in a lot of guesses featuring sheep.

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?
Trangia - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt:

Come to think of it, no one has suggested the possibility of a Yeti? But the prints are probably too small
James Jackson on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Trangia:

Baby Yeti?
Mark Bull - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Cameron94:

> How does the British fox get on with snow and cold temps?

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.
Trangia - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to James Jackson:
> (In reply to Trangia)
>
> Baby Yeti?

Of course! The obvious is often staring you in the face!
andy.smythe - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to David Barratt: cant really tell from this image but all feline print have three lobes on the main pad. 2 lobes would be canine
subalpine - on 24 Mar 2013
Mark Bull - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to subalpine:
> here are some prints from about 600m on Carn Liath:
>
> any ideas?

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):
>

Also hare!

>
> and what could these be?!
>

Definitely bird-like. Ptarmigan or grouse, possibly.
wercat on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Trangia:

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.

Andy Moles - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

Beinn a' Chait, Meall a' Chait, Creag a' Chait, Eag a' Chait...?
Douglas Griffin - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Andy Moles:

Aye, not sure where any of those are but they're certainly named for cats!
subalpine - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Mark Bull:
> (In reply to subalpine)
> [...]
>
> 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?
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24946232/IMGP7583.JPG
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..

ceri - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to andy.smythe: Also, comparing a dog and a fox paw, the 2 lateral toes are much further back on a fox, more in line with the central pair in a dog. See http://www.dpiw.tas.gov.au/inter/nsf/WebPages/CMAR-5K47QB?open which also has helpful australian wildlife prints :)
Andy Moles - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Douglas Griffin:

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.
Tim Chappell - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Andy Moles:


And then there's BEARSden near Glasgow. And the TIGER T in Glenshee...
Cuthbert on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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.
Tim Chappell - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Saor Alba:


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.
Douglas Griffin - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Druim, not Drum.

And Sionnach means fox, rather than wolf, I think (Donald can perhaps confirm).
http://www2.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/faclair/sbg/lorg.php?faclair=sbg&seorsa=Gaidhlig&facal=si...
Cuthbert on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

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.
Mark Bull - on 24 Mar 2013
In reply to subalpine:

> thanks, so these are rear?
> http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24946232/IMGP7583.JPG
> 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.


> yeah, i thought ptarmigan, bit notice the two central claws..

I think that might be a result of the wind erosion somehow.


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