A small population of pine martens has been discovered living in Shropshire, after being thought extinct in England for a century.
The first sighting of a pine marten in 100 years was confirmed in July, when amateur photographer and wildlife recorder, Dave Pearce, captured the elusive mammal on camera and sent the photos to Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Previous reports of pine martens in the county had turned out on closer inspection to be domestic cats, mink or even black squirrels.
Following the sighting, Shropshire Wildlife Trust has launched an appeal to raise funds for the Shropshire Pine Marten Project, which aims to discover how many pine martens are living in the area, and ensure that they get the protection they need to survive and thrive.
Now, camera traps set up by the project have provided proof that there are several pine martens living in the area.
‘This is incredibly exciting’, said Stuart Edmunds, Shropshire Wildlife Trust Communications Officer and Project Lead. ‘Pine martens were thought to be extinct in England and there is now a possibility that they may have been living here right under our noses for a long time.’
Pine martens were once widespread across the UK, but their numbers have declined dramatically over the last few centuries due to loss of woodland, their native habitat. There is still a thriving population of around 4,000 individuals in Scotland, while small numbers are known to exist in Wales. The species is highly territorial, and can travel vast distances, so it is likely that the Shropshire martens have come across the Welsh border in search of new territories.
Donations to the Shropshire Pine Marten Project will go towards raising awareness of pine martens and helping to conserve their habitats. These cat-sized members of the weasel family prefer to live in old, hollow trees, so the Trust will work with landowners and the Forestry Commission to ensure that old trees are protected.
Stuart is keen to hear of other possible pine marten sightings in England. Information can be sent to him directly at [email protected] or via Twitter @PinemartensUK