Experts are scratching their heads over a mysterious new species called a 'cat-fox' found wandering on a French island
- A new species of feline was discovered on Corsica, off the coast of France.
- Dubbed "cat-fox," it appears like an overgrown cat but exhibits aggressive fox behaviors.
- France's National Hunting and Wildlife Office has found 16 of the animal so far.
- The animals were first captured in 2016, but they likely date back further than that.
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There's a new cat in town - and experts aren't quite sure what to make of it. On Corsica, an island off the coast of France, experts have discovered a new species of fox-like cats. The animals look like overgrown cats but exhibit aggressive fox behaviors. Experts have very creatively dubbed the animal the "cat-fox."
At first glance they look like house cats, but there are some differences. For example, the "cat-fox" is much longer, spanning about 35 inches, according to Pierre Benedetti, chief environmental technician of the National Hunting and Wildlife Office. Other distinct qualities include their short, bushy tails, canine-like teeth, wide ears, and short whiskers.
So far, experts have wrangled 16 of the animal.
Although the animals were first captured by rangers in 2016, they likely date back further in the island's history, according to CNN. Prior to that, there had been secondhand tales of the animal on the island, like in 2008 when there were reports of a cat in a chicken coop, according to Radio France Internationale.
"The cat-fox is part of our shepherd mythology. From generation to generation, they told stories of how the forest cats would attack the udders of their ewes and goats," Carlu-Antone Cecchini, the wildlife office's field agent in charge of forest cats, told AFP.
Experts are trying to trace the animal's origin, as they believe these are no ordinary cats.
"By looking at its DNA, we could tell it apart from the European wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris. It's close to the African forest cat, Felis silvestris lybica, but its exact identity is still to be determined," Benedetti told the AFP.
For now, the mystery and myth around the cats remain unclear. However, scientists are eager to keep learning.
"If this hypothesis is confirmed, it's origin would be considered Middle Eastern," Benedetti told Radio France Internationale. "Ultimately, we would like to see this cat recognised and protected."
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