It was bitterly cold this morning. No sitting in the sit~spot for me today. A look out of the window at the bird table was enough. I had to get my stuff sorted for a little foray up into the forest behind my friend’s house. She had told me of a man who lived in the darkest part of the woods in a little cabin who was feeding lynx mince beef in his back garden. I knew that I probably would not be able to see the lynx unless I could find a way of staying with this guy for the night but I knew that I could at least go and have a look around the forest to check out what was going on.
We walked for thirty minutes until we saw anything of any merit; deer, fox and lots of dog. The path was not so busy with human footprints, though people had left snowshoe tracks. The snow was very old, very crusty and completely destroyed in some places. I thought that even if we did find something approximating a lynx track, it would be very deteriorated indeed. We did find something. Individual prints along the path mingling in with the other chaos of tracks that looked very out of the ordinary. I know most of the common tracks around here in snow, maybe I could say that I know 99% of them. This one was a print I had definitely not seen before. I held judgement and didn’t assume that it was lynx. I was excited nevertheless.
It was now -5°c and trying very hard to snow. Soon we came to a steep bank rising up into the beech forest above us. This was more promising. On the side of the bank were a series of jump tracks that looked very unfamiliar to me. They were pretty old, deep and destroyed but the pattern they made was very, very interesting. I need to study the leap patterns of my dog some more to analyse whether this was a track made by a ‘cat’ or a member of the dog family or whether they make the same kind of track patterns as they leap uphill.
I could not see one claw mark anywhere, however. Sure, the tracks dug in at the toe area on the steepest part of the slope but there were definitely no triangular shaped ‘doggy’ claw marks anywhere. Nor was it anything like a deer or member of the weasel family. I’d love to say this was a lynx. The paw size was impressive; given the deteriorating snow conditions, they were easily 6cm across x 5 cm long. If that was feline, it wasn’t a domestic cat.
I stood back and imagined myself as a lynx right then. I could discern nothing more from the tracks. I wanted to follow them right up into the wood but this time, it was not possible. We had to return to my friend’s house (next time we will go on further). I slipped into the body of cat; big paws, tufted ears, bob tail. I felt her move across the path in the opposite direction from all the busy thorough-faring of dog, fox and deer. This animal was alone in going up the slope in that direction. Silently slipping up into the beech litter over to her den.
Oh, it could have been a large dog, of course it could! It could have been a large pine marten. It could have been anything.
But then, my friend told me that the tracks were leading directly cross-country to the backwoodman’s hut.