Pine Marten shows signs of recovery


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 that has vanished from much of England and Wales.

Pine Marten (Colin Smith).

A joint survey by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT), to be published later this week, shows that the Pine Marten population has regained ground across much of Scotland. It is now recolonising areas from which it has been absent for more than 100 years. "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 northwest Highlands. 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. Pine Martens are now present in many eastern parts of the country, including Caithness, Moray, much of Perth and Kinross, Aberdeenshire and Angus and parts of Fife. They have also moved south into southern Argyll, the Trossachs, much of Stirlingshire and some parts of the central belt. Rob Raynor, mammals advisor at Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "This is good news for one of Scotland's most iconic animals and it is reassuring that this formerly rare and persecuted mammal is now making a comeback in some of the more populated parts of the country."

Pine Marten (Edward Delaney).

The 2012 'Expansion Zone Survey of Pine Marten Distribution in Scotland' is available on the SNH website.

Written by: Scottish Natural Heritage