Conservationists have confirmed that pine martens, a species previously only thought to have survived largely in the North of England, have established a population in the New Forest in southern England. A team from Forestry England, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and Wild New Forest will be studying them over the next year to find out more about how these rare creatures are living in the Forest.
Pine martens, a cat sized member of the weasel family, were once widespread across the UK. Habitat loss and human activity drastically reduced their numbers, with only a small and fragmented population remaining, mostly in Northern England, Scotland and parts of Wales. They prefer well-wooded areas with plenty of cover and largely feed on small rodents, birds, insects and fruit.
The earliest sighting of a pine marten in the New Forest was made in 1993 by the New Forest Badger Group. Over the years, a series of other sightings have been recorded including video of pine martens inadvertently captured on hidden cameras set up to monitor other species.
With clear evidence that a population of pine martens has now become established in the New Forest, the survey team will be assessing the size of the population and their breeding success. They also hope to identify the different habitats and areas of the forest where they are settling.
Leanne Sargeant, Senior Ecologist at Forestry England, said: “It is not often that we are able to talk about wildlife returning to landscapes and re-establishing their populations, so this is a really fascinating development to study. The New Forest is a unique landscape and a haven for wildlife, and through this work we hope to learn just what makes it such a good habitat for returning pine martens.”
The team will use a range of techniques to study these nocturnal creatures including the use of hidden cameras. Every pine marten is chestnut brown in colour but each has a uniquely shaped bib – a pale yellow section of fur on its chin and throat. This makes it possible to identify and record every individual, and observing their interactions means the team will also be able to spot family groups.
Posted On: 01/12/2022