Pine Marten (Martes martes)
The pine marten (Martes martes) is likely to have arrived in Britain and Ireland soon after the end of the last glaciation. It has been suggested that 6,500 years ago, when Britain and Ireland had greater tree cover, the pine marten was the second most common carnivore in Britain. The clearance of these woodlands, together with predator control, had a devastating effect on the pine marten population and by 1915 this species was confined to just a few of the more remote areas across Britain and Ireland. Small populations survived in Wales and the Marches and in areas of northern England, with relatively strong populations still present in parts of the Scottish Highlands.
Today, populations are expanding in number and range in Scotland and Ireland. In England and Wales the population has not recovered from its decline and pine martens live at very low densities with a very restricted distribution. In England, most reports come from rugged upland areas such as the Lake District, Pennines, Cheviots and North York Moors; similarly in Wales the main strongholds are the Cambrian Mountains, Snowdonia and the uplands of central southern Wales.
The VWT has been studying the pine marten for more than 30 years and has published, or has contributed to, a number of research papers on the pine marten. In 2011, the Trust developed a long-term Pine Marten Conservation Strategy in collaboration with other statutory and voluntary conservation bodies. What is clear from our extensive studies carried out over several decades is that numbers of this elusive mammal in England and Wales are so low that without intervention the pine marten is likely to go extinct in England and Wales.
In 2014, the VWT in consultation with and support from these conservation bodies launched its Pine Marten Recovery Project. The aim of the project is to restore self-sustaining populations of pine martens to England and Wales.