‘Extinct’ animal turns up in Wales as roadside carcass proves elusive pine martens still exist
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Thursday 08 November 2012
One of Britain’s rarest and most elusive animals has been found in Wales, after a hunt lasting more than 40 years – the pine marten.
A tree-climbing relative of the otter and the stoat, the pine marten had become extinct throughout much of Britain by the early 20th century, although numbers of the animal survived in Scotland.
But in Wales its continued existence has been problematic and no sight has been made of the animal, living or dead, since a carcass was found in 1971.
Now, however, a carcass of a pine marten which had been killed by a vehicle has been found on the roadside near Newtown in Powys, and DNA analysis has confirmed that the young male was a native British animal.
The finding brings to a climax the organised hunt for pine martens in Wales which has been carried out in recent decades by the Vincent Wildlife Trust.
In the last 20 years, the Trust has received more than 300 credible reports of sightings of pine martens in Wales and has built up a map of ‘hot spot’ areas. It has organised numerous hunts for pine marten scats (droppings) using teams of volunteers, deployed remote cameras and set up baited hair tubes, yet until now the most recent unequivocal evidence was a pine marten scat found in Cwm Rheidol forest in 2007 and later positively DNA tested.
“The significance of this find cannot be overstated,” said Natalie Buttriss, the Trust’s Chief Executive. “It adds to the body of evidence supporting the long-held view of mammal experts, that this attractive tree-dwelling animal does exist in Wales, but in such low numbers that very few people ever see one.”
The carcass was found by local resident Olly Amy on the roadside close to the village of Aberhafesp near Newtown.
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