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Pine Marten rediscovered in Cumbria after 10 years!

11/05/2011 08:42:26

Pine Marten have been proved in Cumbria's Grizedale Forest. Credit Vincent Wildlife Trust

Pine marten facts

  • A native mammal of Britain and Ireland, the pine marten (Martes martes) is a medium-sized mustelid (or member of the weasel family) and is related to the mink, polecat, otter, badger, stoat and weasel. Adult pine martens are similar in size to a small/medium-sized domestic cat, with males about a third larger than the females.
  • The pine marten has a slim body and a long tail that is thick and bushy in its winter coat. Rich brown fur contrasts with a creamy-yellow 'bib' on the throat and chest, and with the pale fur within the prominent, rounded ears (the bib varies in size and in some individuals is almost absent).
  • The pine marten probably arrived in Britain and Ireland soon after the end of the last glaciation, about 9,500 years ago. An animal of woodland, it would have been most numerous when Britain and Ireland had greater tree cover. It has been suggested that 6,500 years ago, pine martens were the second most common carnivore in Britain!
  • Pine martens are solitary for most of the year, and each adult occupies a home range that varies from 20 to 3000+ hectares depending on the quality of the habitat.
Pine marten in Grizedale Forest

May 2011. England's rarest mammal, the pine marten, is living in the Forestry Commission's Grizedale Forest in Cumbria. DNA tests have provided the first unequivocal evidence for 10 years that this shy and elusive animal is in the Lake District.

A pine marten scat (dropping) was found by The Vincent Wildlife Trust's (VWT) Pine Marten Project Manager, confirming the long-held view of mammal experts that this attractive tree-dwelling animal does exist in England, but in such low numbers that very few people ever see one. This animal is so rare that this is only the third pine marten scat found in England in the last 10 years.

"This is a great day for pine marten conservation and a real cause for celebration, not only for staff at the VWT but also for more than 200 volunteers who have given up so much of their time to help the Trust in its search for this rare mammal in England and Wales," said Natalie Buttriss, Chief Executive with The Vincent Wildlife Trust. Natalie went on to say, "In the last 15 years, The Vincent Wildlife Trust has received more than 100 good quality reported sightings of pine martens in Cumbria so we have always believed that they were there, but until today we lacked recent DNA evidence to back this up. It is a very significant find,"

DNA proof
The scat was sent to the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland, where scientists have DNA tested over 1000 scats on behalf of the VWT in the last two years. Out of these 1000 scats this is only the second to be identified as pine marten. The other positive scat was found last year in Northumberland - yet more evidence of the presence of this mammal in northern England.

England distribution
Along with Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire and the Peak District, Cumbria is considered a ‘hot spot' for pine martens. Key areas in the Lakes include Grizedale Forest, the Rusland Valley, and the forested dales to the west, including Ennerdale. It is in these areas that the VWT has been focusing its efforts to find further evidence of the pine marten.

Lack of mature trees
Iain Yoxall, ranger with the Forestry Commission at Grizedale said, "It's great news to have it confirmed that pine martens are here in Grizedale. This reinforces the importance of the Forestry Commission's work in erecting and monitoring den boxes for pine martens in some of our Lakeland forests." One of the reasons that pine martens are so rare is the lack of mature trees with cavities in which pine martens can live. To address this, the VWT and the Forestry Commission have erected den boxes in woodlands across Cumbria to provide pine martens with a safe place in which to breed and raise their young.

Report a sighting
If you think you have seen a pine marten in England or Wales, please contact the VWT by phoning 01531 636441 or visiting

Pine martens in Britain
The pine marten (Martes martes) had become extinct throughout much of Britain by the early part of the 20th century. Small populations survived in Wales and the Marches and in areas of northern England, but relatively strong populations were still to be found only in some parts of the Scottish Highlands where persecution pressures were less.

Recent studies show that the pine marten in Scotland appears to be making a good recovery. South of the Scottish border the situation appears to be different and the recovery taking place in Scotland has not yet occurred in those parts of England and Wales where pine martens survived.

Since the mid-1990s The Vincent Wildlife Trust has been gathering and evaluating reported sightings of pine martens from England and Wales. Analysis of data suggests that pine martens are still present in broadly the same parts of England and Wales from which they were recorded in earlier decades, including Lakeland, Northumbria and the North York Moors in England. However, the animals are apparently rare and elusive, and evidence of their presence is very hard to find. What is needed is more evidence of their whereabouts and more DNA samples to analyse the origins of those animals still surviving amongst the hills and dales of northern England. More DNA evidence will help in the long-term conservation plans for the pine marten.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment


Yes we saw a pine marten about 25 years ago in this area going toward whinlatter pass . I am pleased that they seem to have multiplied . Our sighting was very early morning and it was gone in seconds up a pine tree , never reported it as it was a very rare thing back then and sometimes best if left alone.

Posted by: john marsh | 29 May 2011 09:03:33

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