A friend and I carried out a three day recce of the Boblainy Forest area this spring with a view to looking for any signs of big cat activity. We were surprised to find such a large area of woodland which is so seldom visited. We walked the woods and tracks all day, each day, without seeing another person. The location is fairly central to other neighbouring areas such as Cannich and Invermoriston, where numerous sightings have occurred. All are fairly closely connected by forest and moorland, easily within the range of a large cat.
Unfortunately, although not unexpectedly, we did not return with video, photo or scat evidence of "The Beast of Boblainy"! Perhaps next time. Our one slight success, the reason for my writing really, is to identify a set of tracks that we shot on the last day. we parked up the jeep on a section of forest track near to a lochan in order to take a look at the animal tracks near the waters edge. On returning to the vehicle to pack away our gear we noticed three distinct paw marks in the dried mud crossing the track at 90 degrees immediately behind the vehicle. They disappeared off into undergrowth and could not be followed. It had not rained at the site for approximately five days so the prints were dried into the mud, deeply imprinted, however the trail was cold on the bordering heather and grass. We filmed the prints and I have now managed to capture video stills which anyone that's interested can have a look at.They did not look like dog tracks to either of us, there were no claw marks on the leading edge. The tracks were fairly round and about 3.5" across. There were badger and dog tracks further up the track as well as many deer tracks. I would welcome any identification as I would not like to say whether they were cat tracks or not. They were certainly large and unusual enough to make me glad I wasn't spending that night in my bivvy bag in the woods! We intend to return to Boblainy later this year, perhaps in the snow, for another look.
Interestingly, when I was visiting my mother, who lives near St.Andrews, Fife, this summer, I told her about our trip. I expected her to laugh about it but instead she wasn't at all surprised. She told me that she has seen a big cat twice near her home. Once crossing the road in front of her car and the other time waiting in the ditch at the side of the road as she drove past. She described them as being fawn in colour and larger than an alsation dog with a long curved tail. She didn't bother saying anything at the time because she thought it was quite common to see them!
Carl (Cat Tracker UK)
Hi Chris, as suggested I have posted the video stills of the paw prints from Boblainy. The stills are from my friend's video footage. Mine is actually more detailed but I don't have the software to capture stills (yet!) We were actually just about to leave the forest, having spent two nights in bivvy bags, when we noticed the tracks right behind where we had parked the jeep. We were feeling a bit disappointed at having found nothing at all in three days when we spotted them. We're now planning a return trip, with a better knowledge of the geography of the area.
Hope they are of interest. Keep up the good work.
Carl (Cat Tracker UK)
To me, the Boblainy tracks look like dog. Cat (of any size) digits are usually an elongated oval shape, whereas the digits in the images look more round or smoothed-off triangles.
Allan Paul, Scottish Big Cats
Its really hard to tell. I would agree with Allan, the digits seem broad for a cat, but I dont see any toe-nail marks. It was obviously a heavy animal, there appears to be tire-tracks to the right with less depth. Its always difficult judging images of tracks since we only have one dimension. The only accurate means to distinguish cat or dog is the rear pad. Even then, barring a perfect track, it takes several to make a determination. The most perfect jaguar track I've ever found was made by four acorns and a mushroom,
Ben Willis, Scottish Big Cats
I too think these are more likely to be Dog than Cat prints. If you look at the shape of the digits they are too round for a big Cat. The impression left is also very heavy in soft mud..........in my experience cats tend to steer clear of really wet mud whereas a dog will happily run through mud. For anyone else who gets an opportunity like this, a photo and text showing the gait (distance between tracks) and the pattern of the tracks (Eg near perfectly registered or offset from a central line) is also very useful as Cats and Dogs differ according to the speed they are travelling."
All the best,
Wilderness cat project
We saw plenty of tracks which were identifiable as fox, badger and loads of deer and a few horses but these I was not at all sure about. They were certainly deeply indented compared to other nearby tracks and showing no claw marks. Strangely we only saw one or two dog tracks the whole time we were there. It's pretty desolate and remote in Boblainy Forest and we only saw one other person the whole time we were there and he was a long way off. There weren't really any signs of people even walking their dogs as you might normally expect.
Where we spotted the tracks was near to a small lochan, probably man made for drainage, which we decided to have a look at because of the boggy ground around it and the chance of footprints. unfortunately only deer tracks there, thousands of them! What was strange about the position of the tracks we videoed was that they ran at 90 degrees across the track and disappeared on either side of it with no sign of an animal trail. We checked up and down the track for about half a km. in either direction to see if they reappeared, which they didn't. It struck us as strange route for someone to walk a dog. On the other hand perhaps there is a large dog on the loose there! It was a bit Hound of the Baskervilles in the forest right enough!
Thanks for your interest and advice. I will review the video footage and see if there is anything I missed. If I can get some better stills from my video (the others were from my friend's) I let you know.
We are planning to go back there, I even bought a new bivvy bag last week! Fran emailed me to say she is going to be doing a lecture sometime and suggested a trip to the Black Isle for a scout about so that may be on the cards too. I have a friend in Cupar who has taken an interest in the cats around there so I may also take atria there soon. Carl (Cat Tracker UK)
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