First pine martens to be reintroduced to England have litter of kits, raising hope for the recovery of the species
- Three-year scheme began in 2019 to reintroduce pine martens to Forest of Dean
- The first of the 18 animals were moved from Scotland to Gloucestershire in 2019
- Radio tracking and trail camera reveals at least three females have given birth
- Centuries of hunting pushed woodland creature out of England into Scotland
The first pine martens to be reintroduced to England have raised a litter.
Centuries of hunting pushed the woodland creatures out of England, reducing them to a small stronghold in the north-west Highlands of Scotland.
But a three-year scheme to reintroduce 60 of them to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire has now successfully resulted in a new generation.
The first 18 animals were moved from Scotland to Gloucestershire in September 2019.
Radio tracking and trail camera monitoring has revealed that at least three females have given birth.
A three-year scheme to reintroduce 60 pine martens to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire has now successfully resulted in a new generation
Dr Cat McNicol, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s conservation projects manager, said: ‘This is hugely reassuring for us and a major success factor for the project.
‘The fact that some females have given birth suggests the conditions in the forest are as good as we had hoped.
‘There seems to have been plenty of food available for them through winter and there are lots of great denning sites for the females to give birth and raise kits in, such as old beech trees full of hollows and mature conifers with cracks and cavities out of reach.’
The animals mate in the summer, but delay their pregnancy until spring when the conditions are right for them.
The animals mate in the summer, but delay their pregnancy until spring when the conditions are right for them
Most pine martens give birth to two or three kits, who start to be weaned at about six weeks onto solid food such as voles, mice and small birds that the females bring back to the dens to feed them.
As they get older, they start to practise climbing, though they are clumsy to start with and can fall out of their dens, so looking after them and hunting for food means it is a busy time for the mothers, the experts said.
The three-year reintroduction project, which follows a scheme to bring them back to Wales, aims to bring up to 60 pine martens to the Forest of Dean.
Rebecca Wilson, planning and environment manager for Forestry England, said: ‘The hope is that over the next two years, more pine martens will be released into the Forest and that a population will establish there.
‘This population will then spread and link up with recently reintroduced Welsh pine martens, creating a new stronghold for the species and ensuring its survival.’