Hunting the pine marten, the Midlands' rarest mammal

Pine Marten 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.

David Gregory-Kumar Article written by David Gregory-Kumar David Gregory-Kumar Science & Environment correspondent, BBC News

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  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    We spotted a juvenile pine marten on 7th May whilst driving home at approx 10.30pm we approached very close before the pine marten turned and disappeared into the hedgerow. We had a perfect view of the pine marten from face on and also in profile so can positively identify it as a pine marten. The sighting was on the Shropshire / Wales border. If you would like an accurate location please email me

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Driving out of Newport (Shropshire) last saturday we noticed a dog owner with his pet straining at the leash to cross the road in front of us and have a go at an animal on the opposite grass verge. My initial thought as I looked was that it was a ferret and then pine marten came to mind. Your item today makes me think the latter is probably the case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Ref your news item regarding pine martens in Shropshire,these 2 photos were taken in April 2010 in the boot of my neighbours car.She had just rtd home to Shawbury from Shrewsbury and had seen this animal lying on the side of the road and thought it a shame to leave it lying there.At the time we thought it was a Polecat.
    I am having trouble sending the photos.



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