David Element


Wildlife Photography and Digital Video Images


________________________________________________________________________________________________ Mammals 42 – European Wildcats





A cat that is standing in the dirt

Description automatically generated



EUROPEAN WILDCAT Felis sylvestris



·         Well, this was a surprise – so much so that the opportunity to photograph this handsome European Wildcat Felis sylvestris was almost missed! The photographer had been getting up early in the mornings at a camp site in the South of France to photograph Eurasian Golden Orioles Oriolus oriolus as these birds were only likely to be clearly visible at that time of the day. The ‘tabby’ cat that strolled in front of him as he concentrated intently on the treetops caught his eye, was glanced and then casually photographed but it was only with a double take and a closer look at the one decent photograph obtained (using a borderline slow shutter-speed) that it was realised that this was no ordinary feral cat! The thick tail with annular black markings is a characteristic feature of European Wildcats and the head was relatively small compared to the size of the body. However, one must be aware that this species can hybridise readily with domestic cats so without any proof of its genetic integrity the possibility of a hybrid cannot be ruled out. Many photographs show these cats in their thicker winter coats, but this photograph was taken in high summer. A conversation with the (knowledgeable) proprietor confirmed that there were no feral cats on site and that there were indeed Wildcats living in the area. So, a stroke of good luck to have seen this rather impressive beast, (and indeed to have photographed it). It was a genuine surprise that an animal with a reputation for being so inconspicuous had provided such an unexpected photo-opportunity. This photograph looks particularly nice when converted to monochrome.



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