July and August have flown by in a flash and have been a whirlwind of planning, preparation and progress! Almost two years of preparatory work has come to fruition and we are now putting the final pieces into place, ready to catch the first pine martens in Scotland to translocate to mid Wales.
One of the most important final pieces of preparatory work involved setting up release pens for the martens at the release sites. We are delighted to have Chester Zoo on board as partners in the project, and the expertise of the zoo’s staff in animal husbandry and welfare is a very welcome addition to the project. A team from the Zoo have built bespoke release pens for the pine martens and they recently joined us to set up the pens at the release sites (see video below). When the pine martens arrive from Scotland, they will be housed in the release pens for a few days (one animal per pen) to allow them to acclimatise to their new surroundings and allow us to monitor them remotely by camera. After this time, the pens will be opened, allowing the pine martens to leave on their own accord; this approach is known as a ‘soft release’ and has shown to be more successful in previous translocations than ‘hard release’. At this point, we will start radio-tracking the martens intensively to monitor where they go, how they set up territories and, ultimately, the fate of the animals.
Our work in Scotland has also started and we have begun setting out and pre-baiting traps at the donor sites where we intend to catch the martens. The traps are set out and locked open, meaning that inquisitive martens will get used to visiting the traps and taking the food reward offered, so that when we come to set the traps the martens should be easier to catch (in theory!). The results so far have been promising and most of the traps have been visited and the bait taken, with martens leaving scats near the traps (and in one case, actually inside the trap!).
So with all necessary licences and permits in place, release pens ready, traps set and staff raring to go, keep your eyes peeled for our next update when, all being well, the first pine martens will be on their way to Wales.
Mustelid Conservation Officer