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Pine Marten found in Wales – the first in 40 years!

08/11/2012 10:55:58
uk/wildlife_june_09/pine_marten_vwt

This is the first proof that Pine marten are still surviving in Wales. Credit Vincent Wildlife Trust.

Sadly, the proof is a victim of the roadkill

November 2012. A road casualty pine marten has been found near Newtown in Powys - the first known carcass in Wales since 1971.

‘The significance of this find cannot be overstated,' said Natalie Buttriss, Chief Executive with The Vincent Wildlife Trust. ‘It adds to the body of evidence supporting the long-held view of mammal experts that this attractive tree-dwelling animal does exist in Wales, but in such low numbers that very few people ever see one.'

The carcass was found by local resident Olly Amy on the roadside close to the village of Aberhafesp near Newtown. Olly contacted The Vincent Wildlife Trust after correctly identifying it as a pine marten. DNA analysis carried out at Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland has provided unequivocal evidence that this is a pine marten native to the British Isles. The animal was a young male.

300 reported sightings
In the last 20 years, The Vincent Wildlife Trust has received more than 300 credible reports of sightings of pine martens in Wales and has built up a map of ‘hot spot' areas. Until today, however, the most recent unequivocal evidence was a pine marten scat (dropping) found in Cwm Rheidol forest (Some 40-50 miles from the location of this animal) in 2007 and later positively DNA tested.

In recent years, the Trust has organised numerous hunts for pine marten scats using teams of volunteers, deployed remote cameras and set up baited hair tubes, but despite this endeavour no unequivocal evidence has been found since 2007 - until now.

Report a sighting

If you think you have seen a pine marten in England or Wales, please contact The Vincent Wildlife Trust on 01531636441 or www.vwt.org.uk.

The pine marten was foiund after it was killed on a road in Powys, Wales. Photo credit Olly Amy.

This find is also particularly timely with the employment later this month of a new VWT Pine Marten Project Officer, funded by The Co-operative and based in mid Wales. This two-year project aims to determine the status of the pine marten in Wales and help develop long-term conservation plans to ensure a safe future for this rare Welsh mammal.

Pine marten facts

  • A native mammal of Britain and Ireland, the pine marten 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.
  • The People and Pine Martens in Wales Project
    This project is funded by The Co-operative through the Wales carrier bag levy scheme. Money is raised when shoppers pay 5p for a single use plastic bag at more than 250 stores of The Co-operative Food and The Co-operative Pharmacy within Wales.

The pine marten 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 is 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. The last known carcass recorded in Wales was in 1971, but the last carcass collected was from Talybont- on-Usk in 1950 (and now in Cardiff Museum).

The Vincent Wildlife Trust has been gathering and evaluating reported sightings of pine martens from England and Wales since the mid-1990s. Data analysis suggests that pine martens are still present in broadly the same parts of Wales and England today as in earlier decades, including the Cambrian Mountains, Snowdonia and Carmarthenshire. However, it is clear that this species is both rare and elusive, and evidence of its presence is very hard to find.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Wales Is Getting Its Biodiversity Back

Wales is slowly getting its biodiversity back, first with the reintroduction of beavers, and now with the sightings of pine martens. Maybe the pine martens can control the population of invasive gray squirrels.

Posted by: Tim Upham | 10 Nov 2012 03:52:40

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