Frequently asked questions
Why reintroduce pine martens?
Humans are responsible for the decline of pine martens across the UK as a result of habitat destruction, trapping and killing—they are now at risk of extinction. This project provides an opportunity to help this native species recover in places that used to be its home. A Forest of Dean population of pine martens would eventually link up with a recently recovering Welsh population, helping to ensure the species’ survival in Wales and the south west of England for future generations. As a native species, pine martens would have played an important role in our local ecosystem. As a generalist omnivore, they eat what is most common, therefore pine marten diet varies with location and season and this can regulate what is present in an ecosystem. Although pine martens’ diet is mostly voles, it can include mice, insects, birds and berries. Pine martens are also a charismatic species and can be a wonderful sight to see in the wild.
What do pine martens eat?
Several predators already exists within the Forest of Dean, such as foxes, stoats, adders, crows, and buzzards, and they are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. Pine martens will be in competition with some of these predators and may also consume some, such as crows and jays. However, pine martens themselves may be predated by foxes. Pine martens eat a wide range of foods, with the most significant part of their diet comprising small mammals such as field and bank voles, however they will also take birds and their eggs, invertebrates including beetles and wasps’ nests, and large quantities of berries in the autumn. They will consume what is locally and seasonally abundant. Crucially, pine martens are a native predator, hence native species in the Forest will have evolved alongside them and should have some inherent fear of pine martens, reducing their chance of predation. The potential impacts of pine martens on species found within the Forest was assessed during a thorough ecological feasibility study undertaken by GWT. The overall risk was deemed low, however GWT are dedicated to monitoring the ecological impacts of pine martens, particularly on protected or rare species, throughout the duration of the project.
Are pine martens going eat grey squirrels?
Current evidence from Ireland and Scotland would suggest that where there are high numbers of pine martens, grey squirrel numbers are lower or decreasing, which in turn is beneficial for red squirrels. This trend is seen within as little as 15 years of pine martens recolonising a region. Grey squirrels are an invasive non-native species and have caused the dramatic decline in red squirrels. Grey squirrels also cause an exceptional amount of damage to trees through bark-stripping which is detrimental to tree growth. It’s hoped that pine marten recovery will cause a decline in grey squirrels, however the reintroduction to the Forest of Dean will help us to understand this better.
What is the relationship between pine martens and birds?
Pine martens are omnivores and as a result have a very flexible diet which varies with location and season. In dietary studies undertaken across all of the countries where pine martens are found, small mammals, particularly field voles, tend to make up the majority of marten diet. Birds do feature in marten diets, however the majority of these studies show predated adult birds normally comprise passerines i.e. cavity nesting birds, as opposed to Galliformes or other ground nesting birds. Martens have been shown to predate bird nests, both on the ground and in trees, however no significant decline in bird populations has been directly attributed to marten predation. We are currently working with RSPB to look at predation rate and exclusion of pine martens (and other predators) from nest boxes as well as with local gamekeepers, alongside BASC (British Association for Shooting & Conservation) and NGO (National Gamekeepers Organisation), regarding protection and management of game birds.
What about pine martens and poultry?
There are already a number of potential predators in the region including foxes, polecats, stoats and domestic cats. Poultry pens should already be effective at excluding these predators. Pine martens are however capable of accessing pens via overhanging branches. Using netting over the top of pens and clearing overhanging branches around poultry pens can effectively reduce the chance of marten accessing. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust have published a mitigation strategy which contains further guidance on how to exclude pine martens from poultry pens. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust pine marten staff are happy to visit your pens and discuss exclusion strategies and offer advice. We can also direct you to the VWT’s Irish website which has advice for gun clubs and poultry keepers:
Is there enough habitat for pine martens in Gloucestershire?
Pine martens are traditionally considered forest specialists, however studies in some parts of their range indicate that pine martens, although favouring woodland, do not stick to them exclusively. Pine martens are able to move through a patchwork of habitats, however connectivity of wooded areas is key. The Forest of Dean and lower Wye Valley was listed as a favourable release location due to the total area of woodland found in the area and the high proportion of broadleaved woodland within it. With continued effort to restore habitat for numerous species and connect landscapes across the region, the connectivity within Gloucestershire and to surrounding counties is expected to increase further. This will help pine martens to disperse into and out of the region as the Welsh population expands and the Gloucestershire population becomes established.
Was anybody consulted about the reintroduction?
A study was also undertaken to look at how people would like to be involved in the project. This report can be found here.
Alternatively please direct questions to email@example.com.
What happens if the pine marten numbers get out of control?
Pine martens are solitary mammals and have their own territories, and territories of the same sex will not overlap. Pine martens therefore go out of their way to avoid each other. They hunt alone, but if seen in small groups it is likely a female with her offspring, which remain with her for up to 6 months. Pine marten population density, and the factors influencing this such as food and den availability, have been recorded across pine marten ranges in Scotland and Europe. The highest recorded densities are less than 2 pine martens per km2. These studies have helped us to understand the maximum population sizes that could be reached in the Forest of Dean and have guided the number of animals that have been chosen to be reintroduced into this area.
Are pine martens protected?
Yes. Pine martens are listed under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It is therefore illegal to intentionally injure or kill pine martens or disturb their dens. Any research that could disturb pine martens, which includes trapping and monitoring den boxes, must be done under a licence from the relevant statutory body (i.e. Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural Resources Wales or Natural England).
Filming of pine martens may cause disturbance. Ensure that you follow best practice guidelines for filming protected species. More information.
What should I do if I see a pine marten?
If you see a pine marten in South-West England, please report it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘Pine marten sighting’. These sightings will be passed to the project team who may contact you for more information. Please include a detailed location of the sighting (a grid reference if possible), a description of the animal and what it was doing. If possible try to take a photograph or video.
If the animal is dead on the road please try to provide an accurate location so we can recover the body.
How can I get involved
If you would like to volunteer on the project, either through assisting with monitoring the pine martens, helping us undertake ecological surveys, building den boxes, monitoring camera traps and much more, contact us at email@example.com
https://www.vwt.org.uk/ - Vincent Wildlife Trust’s page with further information about pine martens.
https://pinemarten.ie/ - Useful information for gun clubs and poultry keepers, foresters and farmers.