After their successful reintroduction to the Forest of Dean over the last few years, its population of pine martens are on the move - and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is looking for volunteers to help track them.
The pine martens have been breeding each year and are now expanding their territory into the Wye Valley and towards the Brecon Beacons, marking a significant step forward for the species' survival in the UK.
It is hoped that the Forest of Dean pine martens will eventually meet up with a population of Welsh pine martens, which were relocated from Scotland between 2015 and 2017, helping the functionally extinct native population recover by introducing genetic diversity and breeding opportunities.
Pine marten project manager at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Jamie Kingscott, said: 'A key aim of the reintroduction to the Forest of Dean was that these two groups of martens would one day meet up. This will hopefully maintain genetic diversity in both populations and improve the species’ chances of survival in the future. It’s fantastic to see the martens doing so well and recolonising their former range, we’re excited to see how far they’ll go.'
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust says 'landscape connectivity' is key to the pine martens' survival, as while they don't need endless forest cover, they are reliant on woodlands for both feeding and breeding, with patches of healthy forest providing pathways across the landscape to help connect their populations.
Its team is working closely with landowners and local communities to help create this connected landscape through projects like Severn Treescapes, which aims to create a 60-mile corridor of trees, hedgerows and native woodland that stretches from the Lower Wye Valley, through the Forest of Dean and up to the south of the Wyre Forest.
It is also looking for volunteers to help monitor the movements of the Forest of Dean pine martens by setting up camera traps and carrying out surveys of pine marten droppings.
Dr Jenny MacPherson, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s science and research programme manager, added: 'Monitoring natural range expansion is a priority action in the national pine marten recovery plan. It is great to see pine martens born in Wales and Gloucestershire spreading out and returning to other areas where they haven’t been seen for many years.'
To find out more, or to volunteer for the pine marten project, email email@example.com.