Combined efforts to bring pine martens back to the Forest of Dean have just reached a major milestone – a number of recently released females have given birth to offspring.
The project is the first formal reintroduction in England and aims to boost the recovery of pine martens in this country, led by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Forestry England, with support from Vincent Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and Forest Research.
Extensive hunting and loss of woodlands over the last two centuries had resulted in near extinction of the pine marten in England. Pushed to the more remote parts of the UK, they became Britain’s second-rarest native carnivore, with their only remaining stronghold the North-West Highlands of Scotland. Since then the population has begun to recover well in Scotland, but has not yet made such a come-back in England.
In September 2019, the project team released 18 pine martens translocated from Scotland to the Forest of Dean, and thanks to around-the-clock radio tracking and trail camera monitoring, the team now know that at least three of the females have given birth this spring.
Dr Cat McNicol, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Projects Manager says:
“This is hugely reassuring for us and a major success factor for the project. The fact that some females have given birth suggests the conditions in the forest are as good as we had hoped. There seems to have been plenty of food available for them through winter and there are lots of great denning sites for the females to give birth and raise kits in, such as old beech trees full of hollows and mature conifers with cracks and cavities out of reach.”
Pine martens mate in the summer months but then delay their pregnancy until spring when conditions are right. They do not necessarily breed every year, which is one of the contributing factors to their slow recovery from Scotland back into England and Wales.
Most pine martens give birth to around 2-3 kits. At about 6 weeks old the kits have their eyes open and start being weaned off milk onto solid food. Females bring prey such as voles, mice and small birds back to the den site to feed the kits.
As the kits get older they become more mobile and start to practise climbing. Initially, they are clumsy climbers and can fall out of dens, so it’s a busy time of year for females who are also out hunting for food to feed themselves and their growing kits for much of the night.
Rebecca Wilson, Planning and Environment Manager for Forestry England says:
“The hope is that over the next two years, more pine martens will be released into the Forest and that a population will establish there. This population will then spread and link up with recently reintroduced Welsh pine martens, creating a new stronghold for the species and ensuring its survival.”
Members of the public are unlikely to spot these solitary mammals, which have exclusive territories and go out of the way to avoid each other, and people.
Thanks to their protected status by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and the huge support from the people of the Forest of Dean and wider Gloucestershire, pine martens are well on their way to returning to their native home for good.
The project has been made possible thanks to Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry and Land Scotland, as well as the generous support of Forest Holidays.
Further information on the project can be found athttps://www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/project-pine-marten.
Notes to Editor
Images/footage: you are welcome to use the images and trail camera footage that accompany this press release. Please note that these are for one-off use only in connection with this story. All photographers must be credited, all footage must be credited to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and was filmed under license.
Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, with over 230 million visits per year. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and are enhancing forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. For more information visit www.forestryengland.uk
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) works closely with local communities, landowners and partners to deliver much-needed conservation work across more than 1000 hectares of nature reserves, and within the wider landscape of Gloucestershire. This vital work safeguards these remaining special wild places and drives nature’s recovery, working towards a future where the countryside thrives once more with wildlife, wildflowers, trees, butterflies, insects and animals
The charity also delivers a vast range of events and projects across the county, as well as providing free public access to its nature reserves, enabling people from all backgrounds to spend time outdoors and get closer to nature.
Vincent Wildlife Trust is a national charity engaged in innovative mammal research and conservation. It has spent over 30 years carrying out pine marten research and recently restored the pine marten to Wales where it was all but extinct.
Read more at: www.vwt.org.uk
Media contact: Julia Bracewell
The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters.
The Trust has three key aims:
- to protect ancient woodland, which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
- to restore damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
- to plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 28,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free. Further news can be found at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
Media contact: Andy Bond
Forest Research is Great Britain’s principal organisation for forestry and tree-related research, and is internationally renowned for the provision of evidence and scientific services in support of sustainable forestry. www.forestresearch.gov.uk and on Twitter @Forest_Research
Forest Holidays’ purpose is to create authentic experiences in Britain’s amazing forests; connecting people, nature and local communities. We are privileged to be situated in beautiful corners of the UK’s forests. Our promise, hand in hand with our local partners, Forestry England, Forestry and Land Scotland and Natural Resources Wales is to help the forests thrive, so that they are better than ever for future generations.
Our commitment to improving the biodiversity of Britain’s forests is wide-ranging and involves us in a huge number of ecological projects and activities, from monitoring butterfly numbers to supporting major species translocation projects, such as the reintroduction of Eurasian beavers in the Forest of Dean. www.forestholidays.co.uk/about
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is Scotland's nature agency. We work to improve our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. We work to ensure that all nature in Scotland - our key habitats and landscapes, all our green space and our native species - is maintained, enhanced and brings us benefits. It is the job of all of us to achieve a balance in the sensitive management of our natural world in order to maintain and enhance biodiversity. For more information, visit our website at www.nature.scot or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nature_scot
SNH granted a licence for this protected species to be trapped and moved from Scotland to England for the reintroduction. The Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations has to be applied when taking animals from Scotland (https://www.nature.scot/scottish-code-conservation-translocations).
Forestry and Land Scotland are the Scottish Government agency responsible for managing Scotland’s national forests and land. https://forestryandland.gov.scot/