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New fox-cat species with wide ears and short whiskers identified in Corsica

Cat foxes have been officially recognised as a species

There are just 16 of the fox-cats that look very similar to domestic cats

An animal that looks like an overgrown domestic cat has finally been given scientific recognition as a new species.

There are just 16 cat-foxes roaming around the northern parts of the Mediterranean island of Corsica, and efforts are being made to make them a protected species.

They resemble domestic cats and measure 90cm (35inches) from head to tail, have very wide ears, short whiskers and highly developed cainine teeth.

Other distinguishing features include the stripes on the front legs, very dark hind legs and a russet stomach. The dense, silky coat is a natural repellent for fleas, ticks and lice.

The tail usually has two to four rings and a black tip.

Chief environmental technician of the National Hunting and Wildlife Office Pierre Bendetti said: We believe that its a wild natural species which was known but not scientifically identified because its an extremely inconspicuous animal with nocturnal habits.

A picture taken on June 12, 2019 in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica shows a "ghjattu-volpe" (fox-cat) Felis Silvestris. - The Corsican fix-cat is a new specie of feline according to the ONCFS. (Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images

The cats were first caught in 2008 but have only just been recognised as a new species (Picture: AFP)

A picture taken on June 12, 2019 in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica shows a "ghjattu-volpe" (fox-cat) Felis Silvestris. - The Corsican fix-cat is a new specie of feline according to the ONCFS. (Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images

The cat-fox looks very similar to a domestic cat, but it bigger and has many different features (Picture: AFP)

An employee of the French Forest and Hunting Office (Office Nationale des Forets et de la Chasse) Charles-Antoine Cecchini holds a "ghjattu-volpe" (fox-cat) Felis Silvestris on June 12, 2019 in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. - The Corsican fix-cat is a new specie of feline according to the ONCFS. (Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images

There are just 16 of the cat-foxess known to be in the wild in northern Corsica (Picture: Getty)

Mr Benedetti added: Its a wonderful discovery. Its their size and their tail that earned them the name cat-fox across the island.

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The cat-foxes are known on the island as Ghjattu volpe and are found in the Asco forest.

Mr Benedettis colleague Charles-Antone Cecchini said that they have a remote habitat where there is water and plant cover offering protection against its main predator, the golden eagle.

They have captured and re-released 12 of the 16 cat-foxes over the last three years to examine them and they hope they will become a protected species within the next few years.

Cecchini said: 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.

After years of playing cat and mouse, one of the animals was caught unexpectedly in 2008 in a chicken coop at Olcani in Cap Corse, says Benedetti, who has been researching the species for more than 10 years.

An employee of the French Forest and Hunting Office (Office Nationale des Forets et de la Chasse) Pierre Benedetti holds a "ghjattu-volpe" (fox-cat) Felis Silvestris on June 12, 2019 in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. - The Corsican fix-cat is a new specie of feline according to the ONCFS. (Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images

It is now hoped that the cat-foxes will be officially recognised as a species (Picture: AFP)

A picture taken on June 12, 2019 in Asco on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica shows a "ghjattu-volpe" (fox-cat) Felis Silvestris. - The Corsican fix-cat is a new specie of feline according to the ONCFS. (Photo by PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images

Twelve of the cat-foxes have been caught in non-violent ways so they can be examined (Picture: AFP)

Research got under way and, in 2012, with the help of a method involving essence attractive to cats and a wooden stick which they rub against leaving traces of their fur, they were able to determine its genetic make-up.

Mr Benedetti added: By looking at its DNA, we could tell it apart from the European wildcat, Felis silvestris silvestris. Its close to the African forest cat, Felis silvestris lybica, but its exact identity is still to be determined.

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With advanced photographic and later physical traps, the researchers captured their first cat-fox in 2016.

There are still many mysteries surrounding the cat.

Employees of the French Forest and Hunting Office (Office Nationale des Forets et de la Chasse) Pierre Benedetti (L) and Charles Antoine Cec</br><a href=https://metro.co.uk/2019/06/19/corsica-cat-fox-officially-recognised-as-new-species-10011197/><strong>Read More – Source</strong></a></p>
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