South West pine marten project gets more funding

A pine marten staring into the camera in woodland
The cat-sized predators will be released on Exmoor over the next two years [Mark Hamblin/2020Vision]

Conservation groups say they are "thrilled" to have been given a grant of £1.2m to help them reintroduce pine martens to woodland in the south west of England.

Organisations involved in The Two Moors Pine Marten Project have received money from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Around 40 of the animals will be released over the next two years at selected locations on Exmoor and Dartmoor.

The rare creatures were once common across the UK until hunting and habitat loss drove them to the brink of extinction in England and Wales.

A pine marten on a tree branch in woodland
The pine marten is being reintroduced to the south west after a 150-year absence [Mark Hamblin/2020Vision]

The cat-sized predators, a relative of stoats and otters, prefer well-wooded areas and largely feed on small rodents, birds, insects and fruit.

The project is being led by the charity Devon Wildlife Trust, which is working with organisations such as Exmoor National Park Authority and Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s conservation manager, Ed Parr Ferris said: "We are thrilled to have received this support."

He added: "The pine marten's role within a woodland eco-system is to create balance. They control the more abundant species and create opportunities for our rarer species to thrive."

The new pine martens are being sourced under license from existing healthy populations in Scotland.

'Inspire local communities'

The charity says the animal’s return will signal the start of an ambitious community engagement project.

People will be given the chance to become nature spotters, monitoring pine marten behaviour and other woodland wildlife.

Stuart McLeod, from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to be supporting a project which will not only see the reintroduction of pine martens but inspire local communities to care for their woodlands."

The timing of the release of the pine martens has not yet been revealed.

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