The Pine Marten, A Lost Species of the Sid Valley, Or Merely Never Seen?

Pine Marten are a rare species. As big as a cat, but hard to see in the wild, as they are both nocturnal and elusive where they do occur. I don’t know if Pine Martens exist in the Sid valley. It’s highly unlikely as they are reportedly extinct over most of England. But absence of proof is not proof of absence.

Pine Marten 
Copyright Dani Kropivnik, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Pine Marten
Copyright Dani Kropivnik, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Other “extinct” species have resurfaced in the most obscure places in the past and there has been Pine Marten sightings made via night vision cameras in the West Country. The one on camera was verified by Derek Gow, who is an expert in wildlife reintroduction. Was this a sighting near Bude of a single animal escaped from a wildlife collection or part of a breeding population that had remained undetected? There were also been two uncorroborated sightings in Somerset in 2009. Were they Pine Martens or something else? Two indicates the possibility of more. Were there, and or are there, now Pine Martens at large?

Another verified sighting was in June 2019. A dead Pine Marten was found near Christow.

Pine Marten Life Cycle and Ecology

In articles like this I normally go into depth about the species. What they look like, what they eat, where they live, etc. Other than say they are a cat sized nocturnal carnivore I’m not going to go into details here, as there is a superb video at the end of this article that explains things far better than I can.

How Do Species Become Extinct?

When a species goes extinct it rarely disappears from across the country in a very short time. Usually they start to disappear from areas one by one as predation increases or the environment changes. This leads to fragmented populations that can then slowly die out.

Or they come back from the “dead”, with a resurgence of numbers, when protection or a change in the environment favours them.

So it is possible that fragmented populations exist in Devon. Maybe even in the less visited woodlands of the Sid Valley! It’s unlikely but not impossible even for an animal as big as the Pine Marten.

And if the size is an issue for you, how often do you see deer? The valley is full of them but they are only rarely seen by most people. And the Pine Marten is often high in the trees, not at ground level, so would we notice them as easily as the larger deer?

Pine Marten Reintroductions

Pine Martens have already been reintroduced in to the New Forest and Forest of Dean and in both cases seem to be thriving. The reintroductions have been made by reputable wildlife organisations.

In the New Forest the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and Forestry England, have worked with the Vincent Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and Forest Research. Released females have given birth to young and the population is slowly increasing.

In the New Forest Pine Marten research is being carried out by Wild New Forest, Forestry England, The New Forest Study Group and the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. 

Pine Marten And Squirrels

Pine Martens are carnivores and they eat grey squirrels. Many woodland owners would be pleased to see grey squirrel numbers decrease and appreciate the Pine Marten for its ability to reduce numbers.

But what of the red squirrel?

Interestingly, where grey squirrels have been reduced by Pine Martens the reds have increased. So perhaps the red squirrel could be reintroduced to the valley if Pine Martens first reduced the grey squirrel population.

So, should we encourage the Pine Marten? I’d love to hear your views in the comments.

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