Our native pine marten population continues to increase in number and range across Britain. As a result, the chance of us coming across pine martens on our sites is steadily increasing and we need to be as aware of their presence as we do all the other protected species.
- One of Britain’s rarest mammals, at one point they faced extinction in Last year efforts were made to re-establish them in the wild with a population of 18 pine martens successfully released in the Forest of Dean. A new study highlighted in the news this year suggests that populations of pine marten seem to positively affect red squirrel populations, while grey squirrel numbers are seen to decline.
Identifying Pine Martens
Pine martens are elusive animals, primarily nocturnal. Similar in size to a domestic cat, they have brown fur with a distinctive cream ‘bib’ on the throat, a long bushy tail and prominent rounded ears. They favour woodland habitats, preferring to rest and breed in tree cavities above ground, but in some areas inhabit open, rocky hillside.
The map shows location of main populations of pine martens in Britain (map produced before Forest of Dean population was released).
Pine martens are protected by law
It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill or injure a pine marten, to disturb a pine marten in a den, or damage, destroy or obstruct access to a den. If pine martens could be affected in any way by a forest operation, and we take no action to prevent it, we run the risk of committing an offence.
If pine martens are likely to be present in the forest or their droppings (scats) are seen, managers will have checked to identify any potential den sites prior to forest operations.
Pine Marten Den Sites
Pine martens prefer to den above ground and their dens will most likely be found in areas with mature broadleaved trees, patches of windblow, or rocky outcrops. Typical den sites include tree cavities, upturned roots, rock or log piles, disused bird nests/boxes and squirrel dreys.
Finding a Den or Spotting a Pine Marten Once Work Has Started
If you think you have seen a pine marten or a potential den site contact the Tilhill Manager immediately. They will arrange for a further survey and additional measures such as establishing a buffer zone.
Note: Further inspection of any potential den site, such as searching inside a tree cavity with a torch or using camera traps directly outside a den entrance, requires a survey license.
If a potential den site is found, firm evidence of its use by pine martens, including sightings or a characteristic droppings pile outside should be gained before mitigation measures are put in place.
Recommended buffer zones around a confirmed den are 100m if containing young during the breeding season (March to June inclusive) or at least 30m around other dens.
Managers should contact the Assurance Team if they need further information on any aspects of protected species including pre-commencement checks, mitigation measures and licensing.
Further guidance on pine martens can also be found on the SNH website: