The pine marten (Martes martes) is likely to have arrived in Britain and Ireland soon after the end of the last glaciation.
The pine marten was once the second most common carnivore in Britain during the Mesolithic era. The clearance of 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, pine martens have recently been recorded in Shropshire and the New Forest, and occasional records have come from the Lake District, Northumberland and the North York Moors.
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. This work has included investigating the distribution and status of the pine marten in England and Wales, documenting pine marten range expansion in Scotland and developing and trialing field techniques for monitoring pine martens.
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 various 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. The first step was completed in autumn 2015, with the translocation of 20 pine martens from Scotland to mid-Wales and further translocations of 19 pine martens took place in autumn 2016. You can find out more about this ground-breaking project on the dedicated project website.
- Visit our Pine Marten Recovery Project website
- Learn about our recent project People and Pine Martens in Wales
- Contact us if you think you have seen a pine marten in England or Wales