The French discovery affirms the discovery of a new species fox cat in the Corsican forest

The French discovery affirms the discovery of a new species fox cat in the Corsican forest
For centuries, its hairy tail was the subject of fairy tales on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

The shepherds related the sightings of an elusive round three-foot feline with sharp teeth that would attack the sheep and goats at night.

Now, scientists believe they have finally identified the animal as a completely new species nicknamed the "fox cat".

"It's a wonderful discovery," said Pierre Benedetti, environmental chief technician at the National Office of Hunting and Wildlife (ONCFS).

"We believe it is a wild natural species known but not scientifically identified because it is an extremely discreet animal with nocturnal habits," he told AFP.

Nicknamed "Ghjattu Volpe" by the locals and found in the Asco forest on the island, the furry creature looks like a domestic cat in many ways, but has distinctive characteristics, including a black-tipped tail with two to four rings, ears "Very wide", short mustaches and "highly developed" canine teeth.

It measures about one meter from head to tail, has stripes on the front legs, "very dark" hind legs and a reddish stomach. Experts say that its silky coat is a natural repellent for fleas, ticks, and lice.

"It's their size and their tail that earned them the name 'cat fox' on the whole island," said Mr. Benedetti.

It is believed that the fox cat has resided in such a remote habitat, as it offers water and plant cover of its main predator, the golden eagle.

The researchers perfected a method to attract creatures to a stick in essence on which they left fur.

"By observing its DNA, we can distinguish it from the European feline, Felis silvestris Silvestri, it is close to the African forest cat, Felis silvestris lybica, but its exact identity has yet to be determined," Benedetti told AFP.

Using nonviolent methods, the ONCFS captured its first fox cat in 2016 and has now captured 12 of the 16 cats that have been seen in the area, releasing them quickly after the test.

Officially, the creature has not been declared a new species and skeptics suggest that it may simply be a cross between a domestic cat from Corsica and neighboring Sardinia.

But researchers disagree and say they expect "this cat to be recognized and protected" in two or four years.

"The fox cat is part of our pastors' mythology, from generation to generation, they told stories of how forest cats would attack the udders of their sheep and goats," said Carlu-Antone Cecchini, ONCFS field agent in charge of the animals. forest cats

The way it ended in Corsica is not clear, although one theory is that it was taken to the "island of beauty" by farmers 6,500 years before Christ.

"If the hypothesis is true, its origins are from the Middle East," said Mr. Benedetti.