Invading Alien or Return of the Native?
John Martin, who has devoted his career to working with Pine martens recovery programmes, especially in Galloway, ended his fascinating and fact filled presentation with this searing question. Managing the recovery of an endangered or locally extinct predator is always controversial and never easy. The Pine marten, one of the smaller mustelids, is the only marten native to UK. Prolific and extensive post-glaciation, it was the UK’s most numerous carnivore. Now it is the rarest after the Scottish Wild cat. It suffered a long decline until by 1577 it was as rare as a beaver. A dedicated recovery programme since the mid C20th has seen numbers increase dramatically in Scotland and Ireland. By 2012 it had spread throughout most of the Highlands. Inevitably a creature that many find enchanting, others see as a pest. In parts of Scotland it has taken to nesting under roofs. As it enjoys an extremely boisterous and noisy courtship in domestic situation it counts as one of those things that go bump in the night. Being omnivorous, it also helps itself to fruit in your gardens and the odd chicken. One very interesting, but poorly understood, development seems to be emerging in Ireland: in areas where the Pine marten is abundant, Grey squirrel populations are in decline while Red squirrels are on the increase. There is some anecdotal evidence that this may be happening in Scotland. So, let us welcome the Pine marten’s recovery but look out for your raspberries. On Feb 9th Neil Barret will talk about the orchids of Britain and the Mediterranean.