Increasing The Pine Marten Population
A project is under way to boost the Pine Marten population in the UK. During the Mesolithic era the Pine Marten was the second most common carnivore in the UK. By 1915 they could only be found in several remote areas of the UK, and now they have been reduced to a population of less than 20 in England.
Now 18 Pine Martens have been moved from Scotland and released into the Forest of Dean in an effort to increase the Pine Marten population. The last time a Pine Marten was recorded in the Forest of Dean was back in 1860. They have been fitted with tracking collars to help researchers monitor their progress.
The Pine Marten is from the Mustelidae family, which also includes the otter and the weasel. They are larger than most of the creatures in that family, with long bodies, short legs and rounded ears. Weighing between 1 – 2kg on average, they are roughly the size of a cat. Their brown fur is thicker and lighter in the winter and have a distinctive yellowish ‘bib’ across their throat and chest.
Despite their cute appearance they have sharp claws and teeth which is perfect for their omnivore diet. They tend to hunt at night and around dusk, feasting on birds, insects and small mammals such as voles and even larger mammals such as squirrels. Rebecca Wilson (Forestry England’s Planning and Environment Manager) has said:
“As native omnivores, Pine Martens play a vital role in the delicate balance of woodland ecosystems. Living at low densities in the landscape, they forage on fruit, fungi and a range of prey including the grey squirrel, a non-native species which is having a detrimental impact on broadleaf woodland throughout England.
They have also been known to steal eggs from birds nests.
As their name suggests they can often be found living in pine trees. Solitary creatures, they live alone and are very territorial. They will go out of their way to avoid humans and each other. Whilst they prefer to hunt on the ground, they mate and rest up in the trees. During the summer months they will come together to breed and make their dens in cavities in trees, or even steal squirrel dreys or bird nests. They give birth to a few ‘kits’ each year which could make population recovery slow.
Dr Gareth Parry, the Director of Conservation at Gloucester Wildlife Trust has said:
“We are in a biodiversity emergency and conserving our remaining wildlife is not enough, we must also take action to support natures recovery. We’re working with partners to establish a Nature Recovery Network across the country and bringing back native species, such as Pine Marten, which play a vital role in ecosystem functioning, is an important part of this work.”
The Gloucester Wildlife Trust is working together with the Forestry England, Vincent Wildlife Trust, and Forest Research, with support from Forest Holidays and the Woodland Trust. It is hoped that over the next two years more Pine Martens will be released into the Forest of Dean to help a population establish there. This population could then spread to combine with Welsh Pine Martens to further bolster the population.
You can keep up to date with the project at www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk
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