"First English pine marten in 100 years" confirmed in Shropshire woodland

The reappearance of the pine marten in English woodlands could be to woodlands' benefit, Shropshire Wildlife Trust has said.

Image: Dave Pearce
Image: Dave Pearce

The above photograph was taken by amateur photographer and wildlife recorder Dave Pearce at an undisclosed location in the Shropshire Hills. Pearce sought confirmation of the sighting from Shropshire Wildlife Trust communications officer Stuart Edmunds, who for the past five years has run the Shropshire Pine Marten project.

"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," Edmunds said.

The trust's business development and marketing officer Sara Pearce (no relation) added: "We think they may reduce the population of grey squirrels, as well of rabbits, which also damage young trees.

"But it will mean managing our reserves differently, as well as working with the Forestry Commission, landowners and gamekeepers, as they need large areas to move between."

The Guardian columnist George Monbiot argued earlier this year that pine martens could prove more effective in controlling grey squirrel numbers, so aiding recolonisation by reds, than conventional eradication programmes.

He cited a study published last year by researchers from the National University of Ireland in Galway, which found that as pine marten numbers increased in central Ireland, so grey squirrel numbers decreased, but red squirrel numbers increased.

"European pine marten abundance may be a critical factor in the American grey squirrel's success or failure as an invasive species," they concluded.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust has now launched an appeal to fund more systematic surveying and monitoring of martens in the area, which will require volunteer training and camera traps, Sara Pearce added.

There are currently around 4,000 pine martens in northern Scotland and a small population in north and mid-Wales, from where the Shropshire population is thought to have arrived.

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