Hope for near-extinct Welsh pine marten population with new kits on the block

Watch as pine marten kits are caught on camera by Vincent Wildlife Trust

New kits on the block have sparked hope for Wales' dwindling pine marten population.

Evidence from remote cameras has shown that Wales’ rarest mammal is continuing to thrive, with several females and their young spotted in the forests of mid-Wales.

Vincent Wildlife Trust volunteer, Laurence Dupont, was the first to spot one of the new arrivals.

"Our moment of magic was when we saw some grainy footage of a pine marten climbing down a tree with a kit swinging wildly from its mouth – and then it returned fifteen minutes later for a second one.

"This was the first evidence of breeding in Wales so far this year according to the Trust, so it was great to feel we are contributing to the knowledge base of the project,” said Laurence.

Pine martens were heading for extinction in Wales until the conservation charity Vincent Wildlife Trust began a ground-breaking project in 2015 to bring Scottish pine martens to Wales and restore a viable marten population.

Each autumn, over a three-year period, the Trust translocated more than 50 pine martens from Scotland, where there is a thriving population, to the woodlands of mid-Wales where the native martens had all but disappeared. Without this help, it is highly likely this native mammal would have been lost from the Welsh landscape.

“We have been able to confirm that the translocated pine martens continue to breed successfully in Wales. Kits have been seen in a number of locations this year.

"It isn’t possible to give absolute numbers because while some females are using special wooden den boxes erected by the Trust across the release area, others have chosen more inaccessible, natural den sites in which to give birth, such as high tree cavities. This makes monitoring more of a challenge,” said Dr Jenny Macpherson, the Trust’s Science and Research Programme Manager.

Pine martens vanished from most of England and Wales primarily as a result of habitat loss and persecution.

While pressures have lessened considerably, especially following legal protection for the pine marten, the species is certainly not out of the woods. It will be some considerable time before viable marten populations are back in their former haunts, but the return of this elusive, charismatic woodland mammal to Wales is an important step towards that goal.