"Whilst persecution by humans is likely to have been the main driver for their decline in the past, changes in public attitude may allow their return"
Pine marten (Martes martes) once roamed right across the UK but now only survive in relic and isolated populations.
Whilst the pine marten is often cited as being an old growth pine forest specialist, recent evidence suggests that they are much more adaptable to fragmented and agricultural landscapes than previously thought.
If available, pine martens typically select old growth deadwood as resting and den sites, of which the British countryside has few. However, they have also been known to occupy burrows under tree roots, rabbit dens, artificial bird and pine marten “boxes” as well as rocky crevices, and the latter is believed to have been integral to the survival of the pine marten in Britain in the early 1900s.
Whilst persecution by humans is likely to have been the main driver for their decline in the past, changes in public attitude may allow their return! With the increasing interest in wild nature in Britain there is increasing vocal support for the protection and return of Britain’s mammals like the badger and beaver. Pine marten is another species that could benefit and its return could offer millions of wildlife lovers the chance to see these charismatic critters close to their homes .
Whilst the slow return of the pine marten has been documented in both Ireland and Scotland, they have yet to make a return in the south of the United Kingdom… until now!
A student from Cornwall named Jack Merritt recently caught images of a young female pine marten on a night vision camera he set up close to his home. Whilst the origins of this young female remains a mystery, the return of an animal last seen in the west country in the 1960s can only mean good things for both the ecosystem and wildlife enthusiasts alike.