this summer was long and hot, leaving many drinking areas dry. In some heathland sites, the usual drinking ponds for at least one female leopard dried up, but the leopard managed to leave lots of nice footprints within the algae covered soft bed
I found several other footprints in different areas over the summer, within the usual heathland and forest sites.
This one was on a territorial route along heathland just outside Bournemouth and Christchurch.
This scent scrape was near the three counties borders, also along a territorial route where several leopard may often encounter one another.
Scent scrapes are vital field signs to find as we can learn so much from them. They usually appear along the same routes, often in exactly the same place. Both puma and leopard make these and even lynx do. Pumas make them to a lesser extent as territorial markers than leopards. Female leopards do a lot of scraping and the males do even more if they being territorial with another male. I used to get a plastic sealable bag and lightly scrape up the soil, sand or pine needles within the scrape, and later search for hairs within. Most case there will be small short shiny hairs, fallen from the furry bottom of the hind feet and from in between the tow pads. The hairs can be between three mm and one inch in length, depending on what part of the foot they derived from.
This footprint was from the centre of Bournemouth, in a public park. Leopards regularly roam into towns from surrounding countryside, but these days many have resorted to actually living in them.They find safety and easy eating the foxes, rats domestic cats and pizzas!
This fox skeleton was most likely eaten by a lynx as it was found in an area near Verwood in Dorset that has many reports of lynx, often hanging around built up areas adjacent to woodlands.
A town Centre scrape.
On the evening of the summer solstice, I was out watching the sunset when a puma started stalking a roe doe. I managed to get a distant shot of it. It is the very beige object with a long thick curled up tail !center right Many of our pumas are very pale in colour and often resemble the south American puma type. Others are very dark almost black, and others are in-between or reddish or grey. There was a person sat on the burial mound oblivious to the stalking cat which was only thirty feet from the person who was transfixed watching the setting sun. the puma showed afraid of the person but continued as it could see that it wasn’t being observed by her at least, but it didn’t see me much further away with a telephoto lens !It weaved in and out of the thick vegetation and was very difficult to photograph as I couldn’t even see what i was doing as i was using an old cannon eos without a viewing screen
Damp heathland sand is ideal for finding leopard footprints like this one. the hind foot of a leopard can look very much like that of a round footed dog but usually without the claws showing and only just visible will be the leading toe.The large planter pad could house all of the four toes, one way in which I judge whether or not it is a dog.Also the toes vary in size with the outer one being smaller than middle two.
I have been conducting research around Fordingbridge in Hampshire along the edge of the New forest where there are so many reports every year.The forest is one of the better areas for not just sightings but field evidence.The fallow and red deer have many natural enemies and the evidence is everywhere to find.These leopards and pumas are mainly within the forest true, but some are living on the edge of the towns where they predate on domestic cats along with the usual prey species and rubbish.Many large tracks are obviously made by either puma or leopard but many times it is impossible to be sure which species was responsible especially if there is not a great planter pad imprint.One needs to know whether or not it is a usual beat made by one or the other and then conclusions made from similar photographs of other prints found in the same areas or exact p[lace. Over time one can be sure as to which species it is most likely to be due to consistencies.The angle of the toe enlightenment varies from one individual to another, but usually it is obvious with the hind foot in the puma, and forefoot of the leopard.
Hind foot spore in heathland sand. Usually the sand is bone dry and hardly any imprints last long especially if there is any wind but after it has rained for a few days, the sand fluffs up and any prints can linger for many days.
Hind foot spore on chalk. In the downs where the chalk is more common, track ways after rain can show up the best long lasting spore and are often ideal for plaster casting
Forefoot spoor in peaty heathland tracks .This print was alongside a fencepost where the cat maybe had rubbed upon or even sprayed.
and many scent scrapes in certain area. They are usually neat like this one but sometimes they are a bit doglike and scruffy, but as they are always in exactly the same places usually , I still put them down to large cats and not dogs, although they can look very similar.