Pine Martens to be possibly reintroduced to Devon

A group of leading conservation organisations are looking to reintroduce Pine Martens to Devon. If negotiations are successful they could be released into the wild from autumn 2024.

Friday 22nd July 2022 6:00 am
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Pine Marten
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Plans for the possible reintroduction of pine martens to the South West of England have been announced by a partnership of leading conservation organisations.

Pine martens are part of the weasel – also known as mustelid – family of animals. Other members include stoats, polecats and otters. The species disappeared from the region around 150 years ago.

Now a partnership of conservation bodies including Dartmoor National Park Authority, Devon Wildlife Trust, Exmoor National Park Authority, the National Trust and the Woodland Trust hopes to reintroduce the species.

Together the conservation bodies have launched the Two Moors Pine Marten Project to explore the possibility of bringing pine martens back to the region. The plans are being seen as an important positive step in response to the wider crisis facing the UK’s nature.

In recent months, the partnership has begun discussing the proposals with people, farmers, landowners and other stakeholders in two areas – one in Exmoor National Park, and the other in Dartmoor National Park. These discussions are planned to continue for the next 18 months. The first pine martens could then be released in stages beginning in autumn 2024.

The pine marten was once Britain’s second most common carnivore, until a loss of habitat and persecution led to their drastic nationwide decline, and their extinction from South West England in the 1880s. Now it is Britain’s second least common carnivore and is judged to be ‘critically endangered’ in England and Wales. Populations have survived in Scotland and parts of Northern England, while successful reintroductions have taken place recently in Mid Wales and the Forest of Dean.

Pine martens are seen as a vital missing part in thriving and fully functioning ecosystems, especially the nation’s woodlands. In 2021, an expert-led study by the Vincent Wildlife Trust, with the support of Natural England and NatureScot, identified the South West as the most suitable and highest priority British region for pine marten reintroduction (1).

The Two Moors Pine Marten Project is working with experts and local stakeholders to determine what the animal’s reintroduction would mean to other wildlife, agriculture, shooting estates and woodland management. If reintroduction were to take place, the animals’ progress would be closely monitored by the project.

Pine martens are solitary animals and most active at night. They live at low density, with a few animals spread over a large area. Their diets are made up of bank and field voles, plus wild berries, insects, birds, eggs and squirrels.

Ed Parr Ferris, Conservation Manager, Devon Wildlife Trust, said:

“As communities rightly seek to plant more woodlands to address carbon and climate, it is vital we also bring back the wildlife and wild processes that make those woodlands alive and functioning properly. This can bring challenges and sometimes requires changes to how we live alongside nature, and so we want to work with all those affected over the next 18 months to understand how to do that sustainably – for pine martens, other wildlife and people.”

Alex Raeder MRICS, National Trust South West Landscapes Partnerships Manager, said:

“The UK is one of the most nature depleted nations on the planet. Bringing back the Pine marten to its old haunts in the ancient woodlands of Dartmoor and Exmoor would redress some of that lost ecology and offer a sign of hope that we can reverse the biodiversity crisis we currently face.”

Eleanor Lewis, Devon Partnership Lead for the Woodland Trust, said:

“Having supported the project that reintroduced pine martens to the Forest of Dean we are excited to be part of the team exploring the reintroduction of pine martens to Devon. We have seen that it can be successful, and it would be brilliant to have these elusive creatures returning to Devon once more. Having them back in our woods will help redress the balance of the complex woodland food web and support a thriving woodland ecosystem. ‘

People wishing to find out more about the Two Moors Pine Marten Project can visit

http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/bringing-pine-martens-back

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