jamesbwhomer's picture

Mammal prints in snow

Observed: 17th March 2011 By: jamesbwhomer
mammal prints in snow-001
mammal prints in snow-002
mammal prints in snow-003
mammal prints in snow-004

During a Black Grouse lek survey near Cannich Inverness, we found these prints in deep snow.
The Mammal had marked a tree but the smell was unlike any other mammal i had come across before.
for scale - the middle finger of the hand illustrated is 10cm.

  • Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris)
    Confidence: It's likely to be this, but I can't be certain.
    Likely ID
    a cat (Felis sp.)
    Confidence: It's likely to be this, but I can't be certain.
Species interactions

No interactions present.


jamesbwhomer's picture

a cat definitely.

thank you for you thoughts, i was hoping for a more definitive answer, when we found the prints we assumed it could be Lynx or similar sized cat..the spray marked birch smelled more feline, but very heavy unlike domestic or even wildcat scent.
The Morning of the discovery was very cold the prints were fresh and showed no sign of melt...too small for puma but a little too big for wildcat, i attempted to photograph and scale the length of gait but the conditions didn't allow..if it is indeed 'just' a wildcat then he is quite a large fellow.

Syrphus's picture

I know it would be exciting

I know it would be exciting to have a Lynx record from Highland, but it would need to be based on more than a pic of a couple of isolated footprints. I think this does actually show signs of melting, especially in the last pic - look at the edges of the depression - and seems to me entirely consistent with a Wildcat or hybrid. It is unfortunate that you have given no indication of stride-length. A direct measurement of the print, rather than comparison with your finger, would also be more reliable.



recording wildlife with The Recorder's Year on www.hbrg.org.uk/TRY.html.

the naturalist man's picture

Cat print

This is definitely a cat, not only from the shape of the pads and the missing claw marks (mentioned by Syrphus above) but also the very round shape of the print; especially in the bottom right picture which is of two, slightly overlapping prints.

Another cat feature is the toe shape, notice how they come to a slight point and how one toe is forward of the others, dogs have even length toes.

Now which one? We can discount cougar or lynx because the hind pad is roughly triangular. In the medium sized exotic cats the tip of the triangle as it points into the pad is missing, cut off. Also the trailing edge of the hind pad is scalloped three times, by that I mean it has three distinct bumps.

There is also size, this one, by your scale, is roughly 5cm across. In snow, even without melt you can reduce the size of any print by between a third; at least a half with melt. Therefore, the cat had a paw around 3-4cm across, well within the range for a large male domestic cat let alone a wild cat.

As has been said there is no way of saying if this were a domestic, wild or hybrid cat but British cat it is I'm afraid.

Incidentally, I've seen Felicity in Inverness museum, lovely specimen; she clearly had a good life.

Graham Banwell

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