A few days ago i changed the You Tube box at the bottom of this page to "tree climbing leopards",the reason being that the instances of bigcats being reported up trees are few and far between however the forensic evidence of them doing so is a lot more commonplace.
I,ll start though with the sighting investigated by Paul last week at Heyshott and he certainly didn,t miss a trick with this one. The situation was this,a large,labrador sized cat was seen up ahead of a lady with her dog on a track in a (mostly)chesnut wood.On realising it had been seen it ran righthanded further into the wood and leapt onto an oak tree trunk,climbing it in 3 bounds,then sat on the northernmost bough for around 2 minutes.The ladys dog acted quite strangely and when Paul met her the next day with it to look at the sighting area noticed the dog acted strangely again when they went into the wood but was fine outside it.
The witness didn,t want to get too close because of her worry for her pet and observed the cat from a distance but could quite clearly make out it,s size in relation to the tree branch.My fellow researcher also noticed small, flakes of bark freshly missing all the way up the trunk consistant with the side that the cat went up it and none the other side.Intrigued,but working the next day but by a strange quirk of fate(the tractor engine gave up the ghost)i managed to get there and found the tree.I know the area well having sightings i,ve investigated going back to "03 and the other similaritys were that the flakes of bark missing had the telltale pinprick holes at the top of them which is consistant with this sort of thing,in fact it is one thing i routinely look for when out and about and before you ask,no,squirrels don,t leave this kind of mark!What is also interesting is that they are usually on oak trees where a squarish flake comes off but on say ash trees a thinner strip,longer at that can sometimes be noticed if at all,there is usually only the pinprick sized hole.Another thing with ash is that i,ve not found them(yet) on completely vertical trunks.
This,although not often reported is more common than we think as how often do we look up at tree canopys when we are out and about?Years ago when i was doing tree surgery i found oak trees gave a treemendous purchase from the bark ,best of the lot and always remember a free climber who went up an oak trunk using only the bark for grip.I would imagine that bigcats would have the same ease of climbing these trees that it wouldn,t get from some others especially say beech and this cat certainly didn,t go up the thinner chesnuts or the spruce.The fact that it went up a tree anyway once again suggests they do all they can to avoid contact with humans or our pets and seeing as the surrounding woodland floor was quite bare of cover i suppose it would be a good choice for it but the question remains is why the hell it didn,t just run off and avoid exposure.This sort of escape might be a good thing in summer when there is full leaf growth but in winter it,s much less desirable.
Personally,i think it made a mistake in judgement and it only gives credence to that it has spent the last 3 months in an area where it could get away with it but not here.As i believe it,s come from the Lavington forestry blocks where it,s spent the winter and moving west to fresher ground,this is not some sort of wild guess as evidence of cats being over that way only surfaces in winter and it,s no coincidence that it,s a no moon time of the month when they do seem to travel more.Actually,the trees over that way would offer more for a tree climbing cat as they are closer together,absent of chesnut but still hold lovely old oak trees............(related article Lavinton Heath and Heyshott dated 5th sept.2010)