Hunting the pine marten, the Midlands' rarest mammal

  • 1 June 2014
  • From the section England
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Pine Marten
Image caption Photo of a Scottish Pine Marten

Pine Martens are some of our rarest Midlands mammals.

Possibly rare to the point of no longer being here.

Thanks to loss of habitat and hunting they've generally been assumed to be extinct in the Midlands for 50 years.

And yet rumours and stories persist small numbers still survive.

Shropshire, in particular, is seen as a likely home as the Welsh population grows and starts to spread across the border.

In our newsroom one journalist has seen a Shropshire pine marten.

Reporter Lindsay Doyle says a wildlife loving cameraman stopped the car one day when they were out filming in Shropshire and pointed out the pine marten scurrying along the road with several young.

But that was over 15 years ago.

Tracking Midlands martens

Since then there have been many other reports and now Stuart Edmunds from Shropshire Wildlife Trust is dedicating his spare time to trying to track our Midlands martens down.

He's using motion detecting cameras scattered throughout the Shropshire woods on the Welsh borders.

So far they've only turned up squirrels and the odd athletic badger.

Stuart also has volunteers out looking for evidence of pine marten droppings or scat. His best scat searcher is Luna, a rather lovely black Labrador who has been trained to sniff out pine marten scat.

DNA testing

Luna can cover a huge area compared to human searchers, and she has found examples of what she believes in her doggy mind are definitely pine marten droppings. Sadly when sent for DNA testing the samples were too degraded and results were inconclusive.

But Stuart is not down hearted. He's got more cameras coming and is always looking for more volunteers for the search. He's found social media is a great way to recruit helpers and to report and analyse potential sightings. Plus Luna will be returning too.

Pine martens are secretive and hard to find so this is a search that could well take a few years.

At best there could be as many as 30 in Shropshire, worst case there may be none. But the search continues.

Of course in Scotland and Europe pine martens are much more common. Here's one staging a pitch invasion at a Swiss football match and taking a chunk out of some players.