The pine marten is one of Britain’s rarest mammals and is absent from most of England, but with the help of volunteers and local organisations, the National Lottery-funded Back from the Brink project has confirmed the presence of a pine marten population in northern England.
A small number of sightings reported to Vincent Wildlife Trust in recent years had suggested that, after a long absence, this rare native mammal had reappeared in its northern haunts. What scientists lacked was firm evidence.
Four years ago, Vincent Wildlife Trust, who lead the Back from the Brink pine marten project, set out to gather evidence of a possible natural return of the pine marten to this region.
“During the course of the project, more than 50 records of pine martens were collected across Northumberland, including photos and videos from remote cameras set up in the forests. To know that this once widespread mammal has returned to the forests of northern England is such a good news story,” said Dr Lucy Rogers, the Trust’s CEO.
Vincent Wildlife Trust’s Project Officer, Kevin O’Hara, has been working with a team of more than 70 volunteers, together with local communities, naturalists and landowners and there has been collaboration with a number of organisations, including Forestry England, Revitalising Redesdale and Red Squirrels Northern England.
To help this new marten population remain viable, pine marten den boxes have been installed to provide secure den sites for pine martens to rest and breed in. A lack of suitable denning sites can be a problem in forests with predominantly younger trees.
Wayne Penrose, Forestry England Assistant Ecologist, said “As pine martens are making a welcome return to our forests, the work that has been carried out as part of the project has been invaluable in the conservation of the species. The information collected enables us to manage areas of the forests with the focus of pine marten conservation in mind, and also helps in establishing areas to site artificial den boxes to encourage future breeding.”
Monitoring of camera traps and den boxes by volunteers and partner organisations will continue after the life of the project and, as the project comes to an end, plans are being developed for a wider legacy project to secure the future of pine martens in northern England and beyond.
Thanks to this collaborative Back from the Brink project, the establishment of a viable self-sustaining population of pine martens in northern England has come several steps closer.