A series of community consultations will take place in November and December, following a ground-breaking study earlier this year into whether pine martens could be reintroduced to the Forest of Dean.
A roadshow will be travelling around the Forest of Dean at the following locations:
Saturday 24th November - Lydney Christmas lights switch-on, 5pm onwards
Saturday 1st December - Cinderford Christmas lights switch-on, 4pm onwards
Saturday 8th December - Newent Market Place, 10am to 2pm
Monday 10th December - Newent Town Council meeting (Market House, Market Square, Newent) 7.30pm
Wednesday 12th December - Foresters’ Forest Volunteer Gathering (Whitemead Forest Park, Sydney), 6pm booking required
Friday 14th December – Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust Forest of Dean group Christmas social event (Catholic Church, Cinder Hill, Coleford GL16 8HN), 7.30pm onwards
Dr Andrew Stringer, Pine Marten Project Manager, says: “Pine martens are a native species that were almost wiped out in Victorian times, and they play a really important part in restoring ecological balance. They are also a joy to watch, encourage people into nature and could bring more tourists to the area.
“We’re asking local people how they’d like to be involved with a potential reintroduction. There are lots of different ways, such as den-box building, radio tracking, photography, and population monitoring. We’re keen for new ideas too.”
Pine martens are native to Britain and used to be a common sight, including in the Forest of Dean. However, they were wiped out from much of England and Wales about 150 years ago and are now one of Britain’s rarest mammals. They are still found in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and a small number were recently moved to mid Wales as part of a species recovery project.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, the Vincent Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission England, supported by Forest Holidays and the Woodland Trust, are currently considering reintroducing pine martens to the Forest of Dean and lower Wye Valley. This follows a detailed two-year feasibility study. The study, which has used information from national and international sources, shows that the Forest of Dean and lower Wye Valley has abundant suitable habitat for pine martens if they are reintroduced in the area.
A series of public meetings and online and on-street public opinion surveys showed strong support for the reintroduction of pine martens to the area - 71% of people in favour, 26% undecided, and 3% opposed to a reintroduction.
The study also assessed the environmental impact of pine martens in the area. Predators such as pine martens are essential for healthy local habitats. Pine martens have been shown to control grey squirrels, which are known to cause a range of problems, and in Scotland and Ireland this has helped red squirrels recover.
The study shows that the region could support nearly 200 pine martens but recommends that if a reintroduction goes ahead up to 60 animals should be released. Pine martens live over large areas at low density (one pine marten per 100 hectares is considered a high-density population). They live in woodlands and their main prey is small mammals, but they have a broad and varied diet, for instance eating large quantities of berries in the autumn.