Pine Martens at Cwm Mynach, Barmouth
UK Pine martens suffered a dramatic decline in the 19th Century due to persecution. Since 2015 their numbers have been increasing in mid-Wales thanks to a translocation and monitoring project headed by the Vincent Wildlife Trust.
Matthew Davies is a keen wildlife photographer who volunteers with VWT and is signing up as a Woodland Trust volunteer too. Matthew uses trail cameras, capturing images and footage of red squirrels, badgers, pine martens and more. Matt says, “Once the trail cams became more affordable 6 or 7 years ago, I started using them whilst out hiking the woodlands surrounding the Mawddach Estuary. They’re a great way to see wildlife that you wouldn’t normally see.”
The pine marten population in Wales was pretty much non-existent before the 2015 re-introductions. Pine marten numbers are particularly slow to recover as they only have small litters once a year and do not breed until their third year. However, the population in Scotland was doing well so the individuals were translocated from there.
Mid-Wales was identified as a suitable area for translocations due to the high availability of suitable and well-connected woodland habitat. The risk of road related mortality was also comparatively low. A general opinion survey suggested that most Welsh people supported the translocations. Further engagement was carried out with local stakeholders to discuss specific issues. Local communities, landowners, foresters and businesses were all very supportive in making the project a success.
Once the pine martens were translocated, they were closely studied by the VWT for an extended period. Their radio tracking showed that although the pine martens spent a lot of time in coniferous plantations, they would not necessarily find suitable denning sites there and would move to areas with older trees such as semi-natural woodlands. To make sure that plenty of dens were available a network of artificial dens were installed throughout the release area. At least four of the females in the first group of translocations bred successfully in their first full year (2016). Ongoing breeding has been confirmed with sightings, camera traps and other evidence.
Kylie Jones Mattock, Wales Estate Manager, explains how the Woodland Trust support pine marten recovery in Wales, “Our general woodland management approach encourages the retention of mature/ veteran trees and standing or fallen deadwood and promotes diverse woodland structure, so this should be generally favourable to martens.”
“Cwm Mynach was one of the final strongholds for pine martens before the VWT project started. There was a confirmed record there when a farmer stumbled across a female and her kits. It’s obviously fantastic habitat for them and great to see the recent footage confirming their continued presence there.” Matthew Davies, VWT Volunteer.
These images were captured by Matthew during his volunteer activity for the VWT. Photos used with the permission of VWT, who would like to take the opportunity to thank all their volunteers for the great work they do.
Written by Martha Boalch, Volunteer Development Officer for Coed Cadw, with thanks to Kylie Jones Mattock, Coed Cadw Estate Manager, Ed Midmore, Coed Cadw Site Manager and Matthew Davies, VWT Volunteer.