Cornish Biodiversity Network  -  Supporting Wildlife Recording

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Cornish Red Data (2009)

The descriptive text, below the map, is from the Cornish Red Data Book (2009). The map on this web page depicts the organisms distribution and shows the records made pre-2000 and those made since.

Martes martes - Pine Marten

Range & Status

Found throughout the forests of Europe, except in Spain, Greece and north-west Russia. (Corbet & Harris, 1996). In addition, the full distribution, status and population trends are reviewed in Proulx et al . (2004). Considered to be threatened in seven European Community countries (Whilde, 1993). In Britain, Pine Marten is common in Scotland, in Dumfries and Galloway, Grampian, Highland, Strathclyde and Tayside. In England they are very rare occurring in Northumberland (arguably the most important English county for Pine Marten), Durham, Cumbria, and Yorkshire. The population in Wales includes Meirionnydd, Caernarfon, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Powys. Anglesey is one of the poorer areas of Wales for sightings. A pre-breeding population estimate, perhaps best described as a ' guesstimate' , gives 3500 for Scotland, less than 100 for England with less than 50 for Wales (Harris et al ., 1995).

Regional Distribution

Pine Marten probably became extinct in Cornwall during the late 19th century. Following a national appeal for sightings, by the VWT, there are now six records of possible sightings for East Cornwall (VC2) with none for VC1 (West Cornwall). Observers were/are interviewed by VWT using set questions on a standardised proforma, and from this, each sighting is then scored. Of the VC2 records, four gave a confidence score of six or greater, which means on balance the likelihood is that they were of martens. These records span the period from 1996 to 2006. The distribution of these records, all in East Cornwall is of interest as VWT also have six high scoring records from North Devon (VC4) and South Devon (VC3), covering the last ten years or so. There is a long history of sporadic reports of sightings from Devon. These sightings may have stemmed from escapees or deliberate, maverick, introductions, although the long time span involved might suggest breeding (J.E. Messenger, VWT, pers. comm., 2008).


Habitat & Ecology

Pine Marten likes three-dimensional habitats and so craggy fells seem to generate good numbers of records as well as woodland. Such habitats provide secure den sites, and are inaccessible to predators, such as Red Fox (J.E. Messenger, VWT, pers. comm., 2008). A number of habitats are used, including both coniferous and deciduous woodland, forest clearings, scrub, coast, moorland and treeless fields and a variety of food is taken, including small rodents, birds, beetles and berries. In Scotland older conifers are preferred for hunting (Corbet & Harris, 1996).


Low breeding productivity along with low population densities make Pine Marten populations susceptible to habitat fragmentation, mortality from road traffic accidents and persecution. Habitat fragmentation was perhaps a cause of the original decline but this is no longer happening at a scale that would affect them now. In other words, the countryside has been at the habitat ' nadir' , for martens, for some time now (J.E. Messenger, VWT, pers. comm., 2008). It is possible that Wildcat and feral cats limit the distribution and density of Pine Marten by competition (Harris et al ., 1995). There is also strong evidence to suggest that predation by Red Fox is a significant limiting factor and it could be that the shortage of suitable maternal den sites within our relatively young, even-aged woodlands means that successful breeding may not occur (J.E. Messenger, VWT, pers. comm., 2008).


English Nature commissioned a completed feasibility study, in the mid-1990s, which looked at the possibility of ' leap frog' reintroductions in suitable areas with a high percentage of woodland cover. Cornwall was not short-listed. However, the fringes of Bodmin Moor were identified as suitable areas for the natural spread of any Pine Marten reintroduced in the future to parts of southern Britain (Dr. P. Bright, pers. comm., 1996). Such proposed reintroduction schemes have, however, since been shelved. Whilst not opposing the idea that such programmes might be an option for the future, VWT are finding an ever increasing quantity of evidence that martens still exist in England and Wales and these relic populations are of intrinsic interest. They are currently undertaking work to establish the genetic identity of Pine Marten from England and Wales to


I.J. Bennallick, S. Board, C.N. French, P.A. Gainey, C. Neil, R. Parslow, A. Spalding and P.E. Tompsett. eds. 2009. Red Data Book for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 2nd Edition.Croceago Press.

The Cornish Red Data Book Project was led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Federation for Biological Recorders (CISFBR). The full text and species accounts (minus the maps) are available on the CISFBR website.