The might­i­est mustelid

The Euro­pean pine marten is stag­ing a re­mark­able recovery, helped along by the species that caused its de­cline in the first place — man

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The Euro­pean pine marten is an en­dear­ing an­i­mal and has a cer­tain charm — un­less you keep poul­try and it sets up home next to you. That is why Martes martes, as with many other preda­tors, be­came more than a lit­tle un­com­mon in the lat­ter part of the 19th cen­tury. It is true that game­keep­ers and rab­bit trap­pers were re­spon­si­ble for the re­duc­tion in num­bers but then the for­mer were tasked to en­sure that live­stock, poul­try and game were pro­tected.

To the rab­bit trap­pers, pine martens were sim­ply a by-catch, and the pelts were worth quite a bit in those by­gone days when most fur was trea­sured. Un­like most other mem­bers of the mustelid or weasel fam­ily, the marten does not ob­ject to liv­ing in close prox­im­ity to hu­mans, es­pe­cially if those hu­mans hap­pen to keep other an­i­mals or birds that the marten could eat. This is still very much the case on main­land Europe.

Not so in this coun­try. The pine marten is now fully pro­tected by law, and it is for this rea­son that it is stag­ing a re­mark­able recovery in terms of num­bers and range. By the end of the 1800s, the pine marten was re­stricted to a few ar­eas in Scot­land and a tiny rem­nant pop­u­la­tion in Wales. De­spite huge new forests and a de­cline in game­keep­ers, that sit­u­a­tion re­mained sim­i­lar un­til 30 or so years ago, when the an­i­mal had some­thing of a resur­gence fol­low­ing its pro­tec­tion un­der law.

Re­lease pro­gramme

There is no doubt that much of the re­coloni­sa­tion north of the border has been down to the pine marten’s own ef­forts; in Wales, how­ever, an open re­lease pro­gramme by the Vin­cent Wildlife Trust has helped boost the pop­u­la­tion. Else­where things are not so straight­for­ward, as a marten has been found on a stealth cam­era in the North York Moors this year. These are quite re­source­ful an­i­mals; SHOOT­ING TIMES & COUN­TRY MAG­A­ZINE • 47

The pine marten is en­joy­ing some­thing of a resur­gence

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