An update from Ed Snell, our Yorkshire Pine Marten Project Co-ordinator, on the project's recent success and next steps...
Four years ago NatureSpy began the Yorkshire Pine Marten Project (YPMP) with one aim in mind: Can we capture images of pine marten living in Yorkshire? Repeated anecdotal evidence suggested pine marten were living in the area, although the last confirmed sighting of a pine marten in Yorkshire was 35 years ago, and the animal in question was promptly shot. For the past four years our dedicated YPMP volunteer team have been running camera surveys, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, all over the North York Moors.
On Monday 7th August 2017 we announced that the project had been a success, capturing footage of a male pine marten on the North York Moors.
We’ve been blown away by the response to this video clip, with reports reaching national news sources such as the The Guardian and BBC News and in 6 national newspapers. You may well have heard NatureSpy’s James McConnell being interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, and on ITV National News!
When NatureSpy embarked on this ambitious project to capture footage of such an elusive animal, we had one question in mind: If there are pine marten in Yorkshire, can we capture them on camera? As the project enters its next phase our focus shifts to two key questions: What can we learn about this population and what can we do to support the conservation of pine marten in this location?
Lets take a step back a moment though, why are pine marten important and why should we support the revival of this species in the UK? What was once a common carnivore species in the UK, predator control and clearance of woodland areas had all but driven pine marten out of England by the early 1900’s. Small populations remained in areas of Wales and Northern England, while the healthiest populations remained in the Scottish Highlands. In effect, human activity drove pine marten out of their natural habitat.
This has, in turn, had a negative impact on other species. For example, Britain’s’ native red squirrel populations have rapidly declined in number since the non-native grey squirrel was introduced into Britain in the 1870s. Grey squirrels carry squirrel parapox virus, which appears not to affect grey squirrels, but often kills red squirrels. Research suggests that pine marten can support red squirrel population recovery by driving the grey squirrels out of habitats, providing a type of natural species control. So if we can support pine marten recovery, we are in effect supporting red squirrel recovery too. It’s for reasons such as this that we have seen the emergence of pine marten conservation projects in the UK in recent years, including the Shropshire Pine Marten Project and the Vincent Wildlife Trust’s Pine Marten Recovery Project.
Moving forward into our next stage of the Yorkshire Pine Marten Project, we initially want to understand more about the pine marten population in the area. In the coming weeks, we will be putting together funding proposals as well as crowd-funding to support us in purchasing the resources we need to understand the pine marten population in Yorkshire. This will include purchasing more camera traps to run bigger camera surveys for longer periods of time, and hair tubes, enabling us to run DNA analysis and understand more about the origins of the pine marten in the area.
Once we’ve got a better handle on the population in the area, we can look to continue working with the Forestry Commission and forge new links with other organisations to support the conservation of pine marten on the North York Moors.
We’re excited to enter the next stage of this project but none of this would have been achieved without our excellent team of volunteers old and new, including our current team - Seonaidh, Tobie, Kate, Sarah, Amy, Rebecca, Jo and Helen. Special thanks to Cath and the Forestry Commission for their ongoing support.
Ed Snell – Yorkshire Pine Marten Project - Coordinator