It has taken quite some time, but pine martens are making a come back in southern Britain. One of our rarest and illusive species, the pine marten, has been isolated for decades in tiny pockets, mostly in Scotland, with a few individuals believed to be dotted throughout parts of England and Wales. This week it was announced that the first carnivore recovery project to take place at this scale in the UK has begun. The Vincent Wildlife Trust will be translocating 20 pine martens from Scotland, and placing them in the forests of the Cambrian mountains, Wales, with a future translocation of a further 20. The hope is to create a self-sustaining population in the area, that could eventually spread throughout Wales and into England.
Pine marten are a wonderful native species, they are perfectly adapted to living in the forests of the UK. As a predator the pine marten is an essential part of the ecosystem, and the translocation of the species could have a large benefit on other native species. A self-sustaining pine marten population across England and Wales could provide our woodland with a much-needed boost. Studies in Ireland have shown that a rise in the pine marten population has been followed by a rise in red squirrel numbers. Red squirrels are threatened by the invasive grey squirrel, a species that has taken over most of the UK. The grey squirrel as an invasive species however, is not adapted to living with pine martens, they are easy prey because of their size and speed, so an increase in pine martens has often caused a decline in grey squirrel. This has opened up an ecological niche that the red squirrel, who is perfectly adapted to living with pine martens, can fill. A rise in pine marten numbers in England and Wales could eventually pave the way for a return of our red squirrels.
This is at the very early stages in England and Wales, but it is definitely a fantastic step towards re-establishing one of our best native mammals.
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