18 pine martens have now been reintroduced into the Forest of Dean – the aim is to establish a source population to support the recovery of this mammal. The last official recording of a pine marten in the Forest of Dean was 1860 and the species is believed to have been absent from the area since then.
From the same family as otters and weasels, pine martens were once common among British wildlife. Similar in size to a domestic cat, with slim bodies, brown fur and a distinctive cream ‘bib’ on their throats, they have long, bushy tails and prominent rounded ears.
Extensive hunting, however, together with the loss of the woodlands pine martens once called home, resulted in near extinction in England. Historically, they were pushed to the more remote parts of the UK, becoming Britain's second-rarest native carnivore. Eventually, their only remaining stronghold was in the north-west Highlands of Scotland.
Between August and September this year, 18 pine martens were moved from Scotland to Gloucestershire, fitted with tracking collars and released into the Forest.
Under the watchful eye of Dr. Catherine McNicol, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Project Manager, the pine martens’ activity will be closely monitored.
“Pine martens are elusive and shy animals, with their presence often only indicated by scats in the middle of forestry tracks. They only give birth to a few kits each year if breeding is even successful, so the rate of marten population recovery in the UK is low. It is hoped that their protection, alongside these reintroductions, will give them the boost they need to become resilient and thrive” comments Dr. McNicol.