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Pine marten breeding confirmed in the south of England

Joint press release

Conservationists have discovered that pine martens, previously only thought to have survived largely in the North of England, are now well established in several areas of the New Forest and successfully breeding.

The evidence was uncovered in the second year of a long-term study to understand how these rare and protected creatures are recolonising the area.

Pine martens, a cat-sized member of the weasel family, were once widespread across the UK. Habitat loss and persecution reduced their numbers, with only small and fragmented populations remaining, mostly in northern England, Scotland, and parts of Wales.

A growing number of confirmed New Forest sightings over the last six years led to the creation of a long-term study. Led by Forestry England and Wild New Forest, with support from Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and a grant from the Love the Forest scheme, the project will map and monitor the growing New Forest pine marten population.

The team uses a range of techniques to study these nocturnal creatures, including hidden cameras. Over 100 video clips were captured in 2022, including some showing young pine martens exploring and playing together, providing further evidence that they are successfully breeding.

The new clips also confirm initial findings that pine martens prefer to use fallen trees and branches to navigate across the forest floor and to cross streams and wet areas.

Leanne Sargeant, Senior Ecologist for Forestry England, said:

“The progress of pine martens in the New Forest is a real success story. It’s our goal to make sure the nation’s forests provide wildlife with places to thrive and expand. Here in the New Forest pine martens are doing just that. The survey makes it clear that they are settling in a wide range of areas and successfully breeding. We hope that knowing more about their development will help us support these rare creatures and inform reintroduction projects elsewhere.”

The team hopes to combine the video with other methods to assess the size of the population of pine martens in the New Forest. Mostly chestnut brown in colour, each pine marten has a uniquely shaped bib – a pale yellow section of fur on its chin and throat. This can help to identify individuals and, by observing their interactions, the team may also be able to monitor family groups.

Marcus Ward from the specialist conservation consultancy, Wild New Forest, said:

“It is incredibly rare to actually see a pine marten in the forest, even for someone like me who spends pretty much every day here. So, to have again captured so many clips of these amazing animals is incredible. This video gives us a unique view into their hidden world and an opportunity to really advance the understanding of these special creatures and how best to support them.”

The project will share its findings with the national pine marten strategy focussing on wider recovery of the species. The survey team are also being supported by the New Forest Badger Group and are keen for other organisations and landowners to get involved in the project.

Forestry England is helping to return lost species of wildlife as a key part of nature recovery across the nation’s forests. It is supporting a range of projects to help secure the return of pine martens and monitoring populations in the New Forest, Kielder Forest, Grizedale Forest and in the Forest of Dean, where England’s first reintroduction of pine martens began in 2019.


Media Contact:

Susan Smith

Media Officer, South Forest District, Forestry England


Notes to Editor

  1. Forestry England manages and cares for the nation’s 1,500 woods and forests, with over 363 million visits per year. As England’s largest land manager, we shape landscapes and enhance forests for people to enjoy, wildlife to flourish and businesses to grow. We are continuing the work we have already started to make the nation’s forests resilient to climate change and by 2026 we will:  
  2. create at least 6,000 more hectares where we integrate wilding activities in our productive forests.
  3. increase the diversity of visitors to the nation’s forests and have one million hours of high-quality volunteer time given to the nation’s forests
  4. plant at least 2,000 hectares of new, high quality, predominantly broadleaf woodlands
  5. For more information visit forestryengland.uk Forestry England is an agency of the Forestry Commission.

About Love the Forest

The New Forest Trust (registered charity number 1099420) was founded in 2003 with one simple aim, to secure the future of the New Forest.

It gains financial support locally through donations and from the millions of people who visit the New Forest every year through the Love the Forest visitor giving scheme.

The money raised is used to fund projects that meet the Trust’s charitable aims to support conservation, education and commoning, with some projects being delivered directly and others by local organisations through the Love the Forest scheme.

Visit the New Forest Trust’s website for more information about how you can help care for the New Forest: www.newforesttrust.org.uk