The Corsican "cat-fox", a myth become reality 2

The Corsican “cat-fox”, a myth become reality

A research program was launched in 2008 to study this animal, which belongs to the mythology of Corsican shepherds, and ensure that it is recognized and protected.

It measures 90 cm from the head to the end of the tail, the pavilions of his ears are “very broad”, his whiskers are short, but his canines “very developed” … The mythical ghjattu-volpe – “cat-fox” in Corsican – does exist.

The agents of the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS), who have identified a fortnight and scored a dozen, now want it to be recognized and protected. The small red animal could be a new species of mammal, even feline, discovered in France, but we must wait for the results of genetic research conducted by a laboratory CNRS Lyon to be sure.

For the time being, the ONCFS Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur-Corse delegation states: “There is no reason to say that this is a new species; it could be a crossing, perhaps with a Sardinian wildcat, Felis silvestris, “Eric Hansen, the interregional director, cautiously advances. But it is about ten years since the observation of the cat is in progress.

Twelve animals captured

In the forest of Asco, in Haute-Corse, an area accessible after forty-five minutes of walking in a rocky landscape and forest, where we cross cows and rare hikers, two ONCFS agents unveiled a marked specimens.

“For us, it is a natural wild species, which was known but not recorded, because it is an extremely discreet animal, with nocturnal manners. This is an extraordinary discovery, “enthuses Pierre Benedetti, Chief Environmental Technician of ONCFS, on the site of the capture, carried out without violence.

It is in this “steep mountainous” area of ​​25,000 hectares, “far from the presence of man” and where there is “water and a plant cover to protect [the fox cat] from its the main predator, the “golden eagle” that the ONCFS has identified 16 fox-cats and captured 12, including a female, says Carlu-Antone Cecchini, project manager for a forest cat at the national office. All were released after a quick review.

Observed in several Corsican regions

Once asleep, the silky-haired feline, very similar to the classic domestic cat for the uninitiated, is studied from every angle by the two agents: they note that the animal, besides its size, has “Tarsi of the hind legs always very black”, a “red color rust on the belly”, a very important density of hair which preserves fleas, lice and ticks, a tail “with between two and four rings and always a terminal sleeve well black “,” zebra on the very characteristic front legs “.

“It’s their length and their tail that has earned them the name of fox-cat from one end of the island to the other,” says Benedetti, adding that the animal has been observed in several regions. Corsican. The ONCFS team equips a chip with a number of identification in the neck a male “4 to 6 years old”, already captured several times, who has a green eye and a brown eye damaged during a fight with another male. After these measurements, the feline is released, freed from its GPS collar carrying 80 days of data.

Research program launched in 2008″For us, the story begins in 2008 with the unexpected capture of a cat in a hen house in Olcani, in Cap Corse,” says Pierre Benedetti, who spent more than ten years of his life. “This animal belongs to the mythology of our shepherds. They said that these forest cats attacked the teats of their sheep and goats. It is from these stories, transmitted from generation to generation, that we began our research, “adds Carlu-Antone Cecchini.