Update 26th March:
A close up photo –
And the damage further up the tree, (4.2m from ground), which proves it was not the action of humans –
It is thick cover, with deep alluvial soils and too far from a track to be vehicular damage, and there is no evidence at all of falling branches or another tree which may have caused this damage when falling.
No evidence of human activity, asides from my own tracks. However this paw print was close by, which by text book is similar in form and size to a medium sized lynx. The nearest known Lynx population is nearly 500km away. The print measured approximately 70mm wide by 60mm.
I strayed across the above in a riverside woodland close to my home. Having considered the usual suspects I cannot fathom what could have caused the above.
The damage continues 2m higher up the tree, (30cm diameter stem), and is fresh. This tree is one of very few with a lean in this woods, which contain Muskrat, Pine Marten, Wild Boar and Deer, whose tracks appear around or near the tree in question. However this damage, as far as I am aware, is not from these beasts and the other option, human damage, can be ruled out due to the difficulty of climbing this limbless tree to height of 4 and a half metres to carry out a practical joke in a woodland rarely visited by anyone.
I am very keen to discover what could have caused this damage, having recently planted several trees myself nearby. Any help would be most appreciated.
Below is the exact location.