New Trip Report: Poland
A very short report from Romain Boquier who spent a day in Poland on his way to Malaysia from France. I am sure the route made sense to him!
Osowe, 2019: Romain Boquier, 1 day & 6 species including Bison and Wildcat.
I don’t think it’s 90%. Most of the photos I’ve seen posted here looked totally legit, particularly those from Spain.
Mea culpa. But they were present at least until the 1970s, so it’s not surprising some ferals still look similar.
Mattia from Italy
Oh, don’t worry, it’s very easy to misidentify a feral cat for a Wildcat in the Mediterranean region, they are so similar that sometimes genetical researches are necessary. Vesuvio NP was created for geological reasons, but for wildlife is a quite poor place.
The only places in Europe with very good chances to see a pure Wildcat are Riano area in northern Spain in summer, when meadows are freshly cut, and some valleys in Spanish Pyrenees in late winter.
Iberian Wild Cats in Northern Spain are not that difficult. At least when mice are scarce. Dusk and dawn there, at several particular sites, Wild Cats prefere to hunt in open meadows. Last season, with millions of mice around, they didn’t came into these meadows. First time in several years they were really hard to find all the way over Asturias. At some places they are habituated to passing traffic. As long as you stay in the car, they can be observed the prolonged way. As soon as you stop the car, they become suspicious. When you leave the car they straight away run into cover. But in general they are not a real rarity. Just like Iberian Wolves as there is so much good habitat left without human disturbance.
In the Biescczady mountains of Poland Wild Cats are much harder to find. They can be seen either sunbathing at some specific meadows in the vast woody landscape or, equal to Northern Spain, mostly hunting at dusk. Large size and massive tail of the species here really straight forward. They also show more noctural behavior and pattern of observations fluctuates, even during the best season being late winter/early spring. Sometimes I see several, sometimes just one or even none. There are several occasions of feral cats here being eaten by Eurasian Lynx very close to rural villages. This spring, while being checked by border patrol, we witnessed video footage of such a case on of the border guards his smartphone with a lynx walking on the road, in front of their vehicle, heading towards some houses to catch and eat a feral cat. Also local foresters told me this of lynxes preying on domestic cats in the garden of their forest situated house. Personally I’ve seen several lynxes here close to human buildings so viewing Wild Cats close to houses in my opinion not always the biggest issue. It’s all about behavior and, ofcourse, checking features.
Hybrids & ferals indeed what is left in Scotland these days. As far as I know, the most current situation is about introducing some Iberian individuals there now.
In the Belgian Ardennes ferals and hybrids are a problem too but still some areas host genuine populations. Also here end of March they are possible to spot while sunbathing in grasslands bordering forests.
There are 2017 camera trap records from Chernobyl area in Ukraine and adjacent part of Belarus, for the first time since the 19th century. Here’s one from Chernobyl: https://wildlife.by/upload/medialibrary/dc5/dc56666e0120ad1c729961c027eee8f3.JPG
They tried to get hair samples for DNA check, but haven’t succeeded so far AFAIK.
With massive depopulation of many rural areas in S and E Europe and shrinking snow cover in winter there is a chance for population rebound and probably even expansion outside the historic range.
For European Wildcat, surprisingly good area is Central Germany. There was an exhaustive survey during the 2000s which showed that this species is not only present, but also genetically pure (for the not familiar: there was a belief that the Wildcat in Europe are all crossbreeds with domestic cats).
I had regular sightings of the Wildcat in the Taunus mountains NW of Frankfurt and around Gottingen and Kassel. Also once saw the Lynx near Kassel. The key was covering long distances at night with a spotlight, moving along minor roads crossing forest, especially with small meadows and clearings in the forest. These meadows are common in the area, especially along streams.
These areas had also surprising numbers of Red and Roe Deer, Badgers, Wild Boar, Pine Martens, Foxes, introduced Raccoon, several owls etc., not expected in a highly industrialized country.
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Wildcat is not present in Bialowieza area or anywhere in N Poland. It is found only in SE cornder of Poland like Bieszczady MTs.