Occitanie: the forest cat lives in the forests of Aude and Tarn
The forest cat, long considered harmful and long hunted for its fur, has been a protected species since 1981. This cat, which has nothing to do with the domestic cat or the lynx, repopulates many sectors of the Montagne Noire in the Aude and the Tarn. , but also Razès. Research conducted since 2020 reveals this.
They would be several hundred, very tame forest cats. Maxime Belaud claims, without evidence or scientific basis, after nearly two years of research, using 30 camera traps placed and distributed over a period of 5 months in two supposed ecological corridors and under seven crossings of the A61. Cooperation with Vinci Autoroute.
For these supposed corridors to be functional, the forest cats using them must cross the highway axis that crosses the entire Aude department and separates the Montagne Noire and the Aude Pyrenees. The objectives were to recover genetic material from individuals present in ecological corridors and to make comparisons with individuals from the Pyrenees and Montagne Noire. The ultimate goal was to know if the highway was crossed by species.
Mission accomplished, as not only ecological corridors are demonstrated, but examples are drawn. As for the scientific and genetic part, the “iron brushes” installed next to the cameras made it possible to restore hair without harming the animal.
But who is this forest cat that we hardly talked about for a long time? “This is an autochthonous species that has never been introduced. It has nothing to do with feral domestic cats or lynxes. Unlike our domestic cats, which can be of different colors, the forest cat has its own coat: a light brown coat with a black dorsal line, four on the back black line, back of legs black, two black lines under eyes, marbling on thighs, nose pink, green eyes and rather curved white whiskers. Height will be up to 40 centimeters, weight up to 3.5 kg for female, 5.5 kg for male is an animal. It weighs up to 6 kilos. The forest cat evolves in areas called “mixed” forests. It is typical of the Ariege Pyrenees and the foothills of the Montagne Noire mountains.Maxime Belaud explains.
This cat is “the farmer’s friend”
The forest cat was chased for a long time. He was hunted for his fur. He was also expelled for being considered a pest. It was classified as a protected species until 1981. “Contrary to what was said in the past, this animal is an ally of farmers. Imagine that it can destroy up to 7,000 mice in a year.”, emphasizes Maxime Belaud. This famous “mole rat” can destroy all plots.
His habits, the forest cat has had them for a very long time. “Thanks to the research protocol and genetic analyses, we now know that forest cats exchange between the Aude Pyrenees and the Black Mountain, passing through Razès, Malepère, and then passing through the motorway crossings west of Carcassonne to reach the natural areas or the Central Pyrenees. Massive. Only the ecological corridor west of Carcassonne could be demonstrated. Indeed, in this first corridor, NEO detected the animal in every studied area (Maleper, Razès, Alzonna). Under the two faunal crossings of the A61. In the second corridor studied, forest cats in lower Corbier was captured, but no individuals were detected under the highway axis.Explains the NEO association.
It will never be local
Although in some areas 70% of these cats are hybrids, they cannot be domesticated.
Occitanie: 70% of forest cats are now “hybrids” of domestic cats
“If a cat recovers, it will be docile because it is safe, but because it is three months old and because of its natural wild instincts, it will run at its own risk and danger.”, confirms Maxime Belaud. A forest cat gives an annual litter, on average three kittens. The latter have natural predators such as eagle owls or golden eagles. Usually only one of the three smaller ones remains.
When it comes to getting past these forest cats, you need to know how to take advantage of opportunities. Maxime Belaud explains that we can see some from afar. “When feeding on dead prey during harvest in winter or summer”.
In a few weeks, a new scientific publication will appear, especially on the Hautes-Pyrénées, as the researches are extended to other departments of Occitania.