Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Vincent Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust, and the Forestry Commission, are collaborating on a pioneering project to explore the feasibility of reintroducing pine martens to the Forest of Dean, with the support of Forest Holidays.
The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley would have once been a stronghold for pine martens, but they were eradicated from this area and are now virtually extinct in England. A scientific study and community consultation have now been published. 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 summary of the study’s findings is here, or the study in full is available here.
The study also assessed the environmental impact of pine martens in the area. Predators such as pine martens are essential for the health of local ecosystems. In addition, pine martens have been shown to control grey squirrels, which are known to cause a range of problems, and in Scotland and Ireland pine martens have helped red squirrels to fight back against non-native grey squirrels.
There would be many benefits for local people. Pine martens are a joy to watch, would engage people with nature, and may also bring more tourists to the region. 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. Forest Research were employed to complete an on-street survey, and found 71% of people in favour, 26% undecided, and 3% opposed to a reintroduction. You can read their report here.
There are a number of steps that need to be taken before a reintroduction could go ahead - We need to be able to ensure that we can mitigate any potential impacts on horseshoe bat populations, and check what disease safeguards are needed. Also, the project would be carried out to the highest standards and would only go ahead if the necessary funds are in place. This could take a number of months and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has launched the first stage of a fundraising campaign.
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