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Ireland's rarest mammal on the increase
26 January 2007

A national pine marten survey has found that Ireland's rarest mammal is now on the increase. A report published by COFORD reveals that afforestation and reduced persecution is helping to save the elusive stoat-like creature from extinction here.

The authors of the National Pine Marten Survey of Ireland 2005 (published in September 2006) say that these latest findings show "a significant increase" compared to the results of a study carried out in the early 80s. "The distribution of the species is increasing in a number of regions of Ireland," their report outlines. "These include the southwest, southeast, Slieve Bloom mountains and parts of the west. This increase is largely occurring from core population areas and represents a natural expansion in the species range."

The improved state of the pine marten population has been attributed not only to greater rates of afforestation across the country but also to a ban on shooting, hunting, poisoning or trapping of the species. In its conclusions, the COFORD survey states that the increase in numbers is "probably due to reduced persecution, due to the legal protection afforded [to] the species in the 1970s, increased habitat availability and connectivity provided through increased rates of afforestation and deliberate reintroductions."

It's not all good news for the species, however. Pine martens sadly remain absent in "relatively large regions of Ireland". And it's the destruction of the species by humans that may be to blame, say the survey co-ordinators. They state: "It is suggested that absence of pine martens from areas in the east of the country may be due to historical persecution which may have devastated pine marten populations locally, and perhaps even regionally, and that such areas may not currently have pine martens as they are too distant from resident populations in surrounding areas that could provide the opportunity for natural recolonisation."

A copy of the "National Pine Marten survey of Ireland 2005" can be downloaded from the COFORD website. (COFORD is the National Council for Forest Research and Development)

Pine marten on a bird table
Ireland's rarest mammal: A pine marten snacking on a bird table


Staff employed by Coillte, the national forestry company, were involved in this pine marten survey and the presence of pine martens was recorded at 27 separate Coillte properties. This forestry clearly forms an important part of the species' habitat. Please write to Coillte and urge them to help shield the protected pine marten from persecution or disturbance by banning all forms of hunting from their property.

(Please compose your own personal letter if possible. If you do not have time to do this, please send the short sample letter below. Be assertive, but polite, in all correspondence. Thank you.)

The Irish Forestry Board,
Co. Wicklow

Tel: +353 1 2011111
Fax: +353 1 2011199

Dear Sir/Madam,

I was happy to read that a report published last year by COFORD found that pine martens are on the increase in Ireland. I understand that Coillte staff made a valuable contribution to the national survey and that a pine marten presence was detected in 27 of your properties.

Coillte's forests clearly form an important part of this precious creature's habitat and I wish to appeal to your company to ensure that it is given every possible protection. I implore you to make Coillte property a safe haven for the pine marten (and all Irish fauna) by implementing a no-kill policy in your forests and banning all forms of wildlife destruction. I have no doubt that hunters killing non-protected mammals and birds in your forests constitute a disturbance and a threat to the pine marten.

I hope that my appeal will be given serious consideration by Coillte and I look forward to hearing from you in this regard.

Yours sincerely,


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