Paws a moment

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THIS morning, on my early run before the sun comes up, I come across large, fresh paw prints in the dust of a mountain track. It’s the second time I’ve seen them, dismissing them as the prints of a roaming farm dog on the first occasion. This time I take a keener interest. There are claws among the paws – big claws that leave neat indentations . . .

I follow the prints along a dusty track that takes me down steep hillsides. The land is, in places, turned over to olive and almond production, the remainder being mixed scrubland covered in spiky plants and wild herbs. It’s a pleasant though dry landscape. And it’s quiet and remote – a jumble of earthy hills, pinned between the deep blue heights of the Sierra Nevada and Sierra de Lujar.

100_3003100_3001I’m hoping the paw prints belong to my sorrowful fox. But then I catch a glimpse of the fox, a couple of hundred metres in front of me, and when I see his paw prints in the dirt they are much smaller than the ones I’ve been following.

The prints of the fox are much smaller . . .
The prints of the fox are much smaller . . .

Near the foot of the hill is a white farmhouse. A short distance from the gate, the large, fresh paw prints leave the track and veer into the scrub. At this point I turn around and head for home, wondering what type of animal is lurking out there among the spiky plants. All I know is it has large paws and sharp claws.

100_2970Back at the house I read up on Spain’s native animals. Wildcats are not uncommon. Andalucia also has two colonies of lynx – neither of which is located in the Alpujarras, but lone animals have been known to wander. Lynx are about twice the size of domestic cats and “have large paws”. And, according to the Iberia Nature website:

Lynxes prefer to travel along paths, tracks and firebreaks rather than cross-country. They will even use such human ways to mark out their territory. This is probably because it prefers the silence afforded by padding over bare ground rather than the dry leaves of open country.

I talk to people who know this area well, and none has ever heard of lynx or wildcats roaming the hills and tracks. They say the paw prints will almost certainly be those of a big dog. That’s sort of reassuring.

One of these mornings I might catch a glimpse of my mystery animal. If you hear no more from me, it might have caught me first.

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13 thoughts on “Paws a moment

  1. Your imagination can go wild in situations like this. Newcomer to the area spots the werewolf tracks, asks a local (who just happens to be the werewolf), ‘oh. it’s okay. señor, just a large dog.’

    I think if I came across tracks like that I’d look which way the toes are pointing and go in the opposite direction. I’ve seen too many episodes of Scooby Doo to do otherwise. I know from other photos of you that you’re not a midget – in fact the last photo proves how tall you are – but the prints are nearly as big as your hand!

    It reminds me of the old joke where I was walking down the street and a crowd of people came running towards me. “What’s happening,” I said. “A lion’s escaped from the zoo,” they said. “Which way did it go?” “Why, you don’t think we’re chasing it, do you…”

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    1. Chris, I can always depend on you for a laugh. I hope it is indeed like an episode of Scooby Doo, because then the tracks will have been made by a local ne’re-do-well in a lynx suit (just where a chap can buy a lynx suit, by the way, is beyond me).
      But if I’m confronted by it and it’s head won’t pull off, then I might be in some bother.
      Cheers, Alen

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  2. I never stop worrying about you, Alen. First you climb the highest mountains in England alone and in bad weather. Then you move to a ‘pan’ that is about to turn itself into a melting pot, and now it seems that you end up as animal feed.

    Can it be a wolf? They had to be exterminated by Franco but I’m not sure when I see the accompanying video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nc2w6BbMX2Q

    The Canadian Lynx’ paws measures 10 cm. But there might be a difference there due to the snow it has to tackle.

    Take care,
    Hanna

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    1. Hanna, thanks very much for the lynx link. I’ve had a quick look at the video and I shall watch it through tonight. It looks fascinating.
      There are wolves in Spain but mainly in the north, with a few scattered pockets in other areas but none around here, so far as I am aware. That’s not to say I won’t be keeping an eye open for them.
      And you’re right about the melting pot. Spain is having its highest temperatures since records began in 1942. This morning is the first cloudy day since we got here nearly a month ago.
      All the best, Alen

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  3. A lynx would just slink off if it knew you were coming – way too small to tackle humans! Would be great to see one.

    I saw some paw prints on my usual Cumbrian grassy lane which I use a lot – very sharp and narrow claw marks so definitely not a dog. I deduced that it was probably a badger…
    Carol.

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    1. Hi Carol. I think it would slink off too, because there are no recorded instances of anyone being attacked. My worry is that if it is a lynx or a wildcat, I might chance upon it suddenly and give it a fright and it might retaliate in self-defence. So I’m favouring the big dog theory.
      I haven’t seen a badger for years – not a live one anyway.
      Cheers, Alen

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  4. If you look in this Pieter Brueghel picture, there’s a group of boys playing it in the bottom right corner, so it was being played in Holland in the 1500s.

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    1. The/ Peter Are you travelling with a handy Brueghel in the glove compartment ? What more surprises have you. The Dutch win again! (mind they also invented the D.A F…..say no more) I like Brueghals works. I once was TOP..in art or forgery we were to paint a river scene over the summer. I got hold of a picture in an obscure painting and did a superb copy and was top. Second was a chap who complained I should not been chosen as my Plimsol line should have been wavey to match the swell.Rather than explain the history of how Plimsol had been instrumental in providing life-saving legislation I was forced to smash him in the face (this being a quicker way of responding) As to art, we went on parents evening to my daughters school and the delightful gothic art teacher showed us her years work. ‘An apple in a storm’ and ‘A pencil on fire’ I asked what this implied and she shook her head. So we left. She is now an Airbus pilot and not a Brueghel paint alike…..pity. More to follow viz Corrour/Admirality etc plus another parents do where I remembered (as I sank lower and lower in my seat) My playing strip-poker with the guest speaker many years before. Pip pip . P.

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      1. I just don’t know what to say. I see your point on the wavy Plimsol line. It’s a bit like Spitfire pilots being told to starch their scarves so they stick out behind them. I get the impression there’s never a dull moment in Tynemouth.

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  5. Hi Alen, Colin tends to think it’s a big fox but I’m thinking you should take lots of precautions e.g. body armour and a bag of cat treats to cover all eventualities!

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    1. A bag of cat treats. Honestly! And if it’s a fox then it’s bigger than an alsation.
      The jury’s still out on this one. I haven’t seen any wildlife since except lots of ants and big black beetles, and I can run faster than them so I’m not bothered.
      Cheers, Alen

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