Friday, 19 April 2013

Pine marten showing signs of recovery in Scotland

Numbers increasing and range expanding
April 2013. One of Scotland's rarest carnivores is showing encouraging signs of recovery, a new report has highlighted. From Argyll to Aberdeenshire and Caithness to the central belt the pine marten is proving that rare mammals can recover their numbers, given the right conditions. And in the Year of Natural Scotland, it is a real success story for an animal which has vanished from much of England and Wales.

A joint survey by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) shows the pine marten population has regained ground across much of Scotland. It is now re-colonising areas from which it has been absent for more than 100 years.

Pine martens are still absent from much of Britain
"At a time when some native mammals are declining it is fantastic to see the pine marten population is recovering and expanding its range in Scotland. Pine martens are still absent from much of Britain so the recovery in Scotland is significant," Lizzie Croose, VWT's survey coordinator, confirmed.

As in the rest of Britain, Scotland's pine marten population suffered a major decline as a result of historical persecution and woodland loss. By the early 20th century it was found only in the North West Highlands.

Pine marten in UK
The pine marten (Martes martes) was extinct throughout much of Britain by the early 20th century. Small populations survived in Wales and the Marches and in areas of northern England, but the most viable populations were still to be found only in North West Scotland.

This study has shown that the pine marten in Scotland is making a good recovery. South of the Scottish border the situation is very different, and the recovery taking place in Scotland has not yet occurred in those parts of England and Wales where a few pine martens survived. Until the road casualty found last year near Newtown, the last known carcass recorded in Wales was in 1971.

Making a comeback across much of its former Scottish range
The species was given full legal protection in 1988 and following the expansion of plantation forest cover during the last century, is making a comeback across much of its former Scottish range. Signs of this gradual recovery were first recorded in surveys in the 1980s and 1990s.

This latest survey was carried out last summer (2012) when surveyors collected possible pine marten scats (droppings) along survey areas on woodland tracks and paths. This was DNA-tested to confirm its origin. Records of marten presence were also collected from other sources, including Local Biological Record Centres and other wildlife organisations.

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