Uncle Sam’s Hunters: Asiatic Wildcats
While getting paid to hunt and trap as a civilian contractor in two separate war zones, I had the pleasure of serving our troops as a Vector Control Specialist (VC) managing pests that were possible disease carriers (vectors). We hunted and trapped bugs, rodents, snakes, and animals both large and small. This is another article in my series of Vector Control adventures while working as a government contractor.
Somewhere in Afghanistan, sits a small Forward Operating Base that is fenced and well protected from outside enemies. While the Taliban would find it hard to enter the base, animals seemed to find a way in by either climbing the fences or digging underneath them. Don’t get me wrong, every square inch of fence is monitored, but when soldier sentries spy animals entering, they have better things to do then get distracted by an animal making their way onto the base; however, they will report them if they are large enough to matter.
One winter night I was notified that a ‘giant cat’ had been seen jumping over the ten foot fence through a soldier’s infra-red monitors. I was suspicious of any cat in that area that could clear a ten foot fence, because the area was not home to any large cats. I suspected that if the tale was true, it could be a Caracal cat, but it was my experience that most stories were embellished so I was skeptical of it actually being a large cat. I had a couple of extra-large live traps available to me, so I set them out that night in a couple of gullies that had both cover and water.
The next morning as I made my rounds checking my various traps and observation sites, I was shocked to find one of the most unique specimens I had ever seen in one of my live traps. It was an Asiatic Wildcat. In full disclosure, I had only heard of an Asiatic Wildcat but I had no information about them. I had been instructed by supervisor that no cats were to be eliminated, so I took a tissue sample and prepared to re-locate the cat outside of our perimeter.
The photo above is of the actual cat and as any outdoorsman can see, it shares many different characteristics of different cat species. It strongly resembles a domestic cat, but I promise you that has none of the mannerisms of one. As far as this cat being able to clear a ten foot fence with a single leap, that was confirmed when we let him go outside of the gates. He took a few steps out of the trap, looked back at us to make sure it was not another trap, and he leapt what we later determined to be over 12 feet straight up in the air and took off like a hairy missile.
I would have many other surprises like this as I hunted and trapped for the government, but this cat will always stand out in my memory.