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Pine marten is spotted in London for the first time in more than 100 YEARS

Pine marten spotted in London for the first time in over 100 YEARS – sparks hope for critically endangered species

  • The pine marten was once Britain’s second most common carnivore
  • But habitat loss and persecution pushed the animal to the brink of extinction
  • Now a pine marten has been unexpectedly sighted in south-west London

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A pine marten has been spotted in London for the first time since the late 1800s.

The pine marten was once Britain’s second most common carnivore.

But habitat loss and persecution by the Victorians, who shot pine martens for sport and locked them up for their fur, pushed the animal to the brink of extinction in England.

Now, however, a critically endangered pine marten has been unexpectedly sighted in a forest in south-west London.

A pine marten spotted in London for the first time since the late 19th century

A pine marten spotted in London for the first time since the late 19th century

The pine marten was once Britain's second most common carnivore.  But habitat loss and persecution by the Victorians, who shot pine martens for sport and locked them up for their fur, pushed the animal to the brink of extinction in England.

The pine marten was once Britain's second most common carnivore.  But habitat loss and persecution by the Victorians, who shot pine martens for sport and locked them up for their fur, pushed the animal to the brink of extinction in England.

The pine marten was once Britain’s second most common carnivore. But habitat loss and persecution by the Victorians, who shot pine martens for sport and locked them up for their fur, pushed the animal to the brink of extinction in England.

What are pine martens?

An elusive mustelid, the pine marten is mostly found in the north of the UK, particularly Scotland.

It prefers woodland habitats, climbs very well and lives in tree hollows, old squirrels or even old bird nests.

It feeds on small rodents, birds, eggs, insects and fruits, and may even be encouraged to visit bird tables laden with peanuts and raisins.

During the mating season in the summer, they make shrill, feline noises.

The following spring, the female gives birth to a litter of one to five kittens, which are independent in the fall.

Source: Wildlife Trusts

The return of an animal that had been absent from the capital for more than a century was discovered by a hidden wildlife camera installed by the international conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

The camera was used to monitor hedgehogs as part of the London HogWatch Project.

The project’s research assistant, Kate Scott-Gatty, said: ‘As part of our ongoing monitoring of hedgehogs, we are deploying camera traps through forests.

“In this area, these are usually caused by the movement of common species such as foxes and badgers, so imagine our surprise at seeing a pine marten – a species usually only seen in Scotland and northern England.”

It is not known how the pine marten reached the urban forest, and the closest known population lived more than 70 miles away in the New Forest in Hampshire.

Conservationists suspect the animal captured on camera may have been released into the area.

Pine martens are generally restricted to northern and central Scotland, with some very small populations in northern England, the New Forest and Wales.

Dr Chris Carbone, senior research fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, said: ‘The return of wildlife to an area can be positive – it could mean improving habitat quality or increasing natural food resources – but it’s important that we understand more.

“Any reintroduction of species should only be carried out by professionals, with proper controls – from assessing habitat suitability to screening for disease.”

Elliot Newton, Biodiversity Officer at the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, said: ‘We are so excited to have found such a beautiful and elusive mammal on cameras funded by Kingston Council as part of the HogWatch project.

‘In other European countries, pine martens are observed in urban environments.

“The individual captured on our cameras looks good and is a very welcome addition to our local wildlife.”

The return of an animal absent from the capital for more than a century was discovered by a hidden wildlife camera installed by the international conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

The return of an animal absent from the capital for more than a century was discovered by a hidden wildlife camera installed by the international conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

The return of an animal absent from the capital for more than a century was discovered by a hidden wildlife camera installed by the international conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

The camera was used to monitor hedgehogs as part of the London HogWatch Project

The camera was used to monitor hedgehogs as part of the London HogWatch Project

The camera was used to monitor hedgehogs as part of the London HogWatch Project

In July, it was announced that pine martens could be reintroduced to the south west of England after an absence of 150 years.

A coalition of conservation groups, including the National Trust, the Devon Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust, hope the nocturnal animals can be released as early as autumn next year.

Pine martens are instrumental in the fight to save Britain’s native red squirrel, as they prey on gray squirrels more than red ones.

The creatures are omnivores, feeding on anything available at the time of year, including voles, rabbits, fungi, berries, and small birds.

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