England’s pine marten population is set to double overnight as the mammal, almost extinct in the country, is reintroduced.

There are thought to be just 20 pine martens left in the country after they were hunted and their woodland habitats were destroyed.

Now, the Wildlife Trusts are releasing 18 into the Forest of Dean, as they attempt to boost numbers and establish a breeding stronghold there.

Once common across Britain, they are only found in large numbers in remote parts of the Highlands and it was thought they would soon become extinct in England.

From the same family as otters and weasels, pine martens were once common among British wildlife. Similar in size to a domestic cat, with slim bodies, brown fur and a distinctive cream ‘bib’ on their throats, they have long, bushy tails and prominent rounded ears.

The reintroduction plan is part of the Government’s 2025 wildlife manifesto, in which they outline the importance of reintroducing animals including otters and polecats.

Dr. Catherine McNicol, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Project Manager, will be watching the pine martens via the tracking devices and seeing how they fare in the forest. 

She said: “Pine martens are elusive and shy animals, with their presence often only indicated by scats in the middle of forestry tracks. They only give birth to a few kits each year if breeding is even successful, so the rate of marten population recovery in the UK is low." 

It is hoped that over the next two years, more pine martens will be released into the Forest and that a population will establish there. This population will then spread and link up with the recently reintroduced Welsh pine martens, creating a new stronghold for the species and ensuring its survival.

The government has welcomed this reintroduction. 

A spokesperson from the government’s forestry commission said:  “We are delighted be involved with the return of the pine marten, a charming, but highly elusive mammal that was once widespread throughout England.

“As native omnivores, pine martens play a vital role in the delicate balance of woodland ecosystems. Living at low densities in the landscape, they forage on fruit, fungi and a range of prey including the grey squirrel, a non-native species which is having a detrimental impact on broadleaf woodland throughout England.” 

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