Pine marten may return to
Independent - 9 September 2000
By Andrew Buncombe
Prized for their fur by
medieval royalty, despised by Victorian gamekeepers, the rare and
elusive pine marten may be set for a comeback.
By the early 1900s the shy, largely nocturnal hunter had been
trapped almost to extinction and pushed to a last refuge in the
north of Scotland. But it could be returned to habitats in England
and Wales, a wildlife charity said yesterday. A report by the
People's Trust for Endangered Species and English Nature said
changes in both the environment and the law could give the pine
marten a chance of being reintroduced.
The report, based on research by Royal Holloway College,
University of London, says: "As there is now more woodland, and pine
martens are protected, there is no reason why they could not be
reintroduced to the English countryside."
The research by Dr Paul Bright surveyed six woodland areas in
Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Avon, East Sussex and Cumbria. The
researchers polled local people, including farmers and gamekeepers,
on attitudes towards the animal, which is often blamed for killing
game birds. They found most were in favour of reintroduction.
Dr Bright said: "Reintroduction of species such as the red kite
shows what can be done to help pine martens. Conservation efforts
for such a rare species are long overdue."
The pine marten, a member of the mustelid group of mammals, which
includes otters and badgers, is a shy creature. Each can have a
"territory" of 40 square kilometres.
Records from the 1800s show that pine martens were then spread
widely across England and Wales. By 1850 they had become scarce in
large parts of southern England but were common in Sussex, Devon and
Cornwall. By the outbreak of the First World War the animal was
virtually extinct in England and Wales. Even in Scotland they had
been pushed to the far north-west because of their persecution by
The report says that the number of gamekeepers has greatly
declined, and the pine marten has slowly recovered in Scotland. But
there has been no recovery in England and Wales.
The plan by English Nature and the trust would involve taking
about 30 animals from Scotland from areas where they are relatively
numerous, allowing them to acclimatise to their new surroundings in
pre-release cages, and then releasing them into woodlands. The
progress of each animal would be monitored by fitting them with
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