Pine marten and squirrels

Flanders Moss NNR

One of our local supporters Andrew Watterson has been setting out a camera trap on the edge of Flanders to see what wildlife he can film at night. Amongst 50+ shots of wood mice plus 2 lots of roe deer, 3 day time shots of redwings and 1 of pheasants he filmed this beauty. Just sauntering through.


A pine marten.

These beautiful animals are moving out of their highland strong holds and have been in and around Flanders for 10+years now. They are even starting to get to the edges of Glasgow.

In the current situation of biodiversity loss it is really encouraging to see one of our larger mammals actually increasing in numbers and spreading. But as ever nature is not straight forward and simple. The spread of a carnivore like the pine martin can mean higher predation on some ground nesting and hole nesting birds. Woodland specialist such as pied flycatchers can especially suffer.
On the other hand there is very good news for other wildlife. It appears that the presence of pine martens inhibit the spread of the non-native grey squirrels. Grey squirrels are an introduced species from North America and has spread across the UK to the detriment of our native red squirrels. There were once estimated to be 3.5 million red squirrels in the UK but now there are only about 250 000 left, mostly in Scotland. The grey squirrel is bigger so are better at competing for food against the reds and also carry a disease that is deadly to the reds. But like a an avenging angel the pine marten is riding to the rescue. Pine martens will feed on red squirrels but when there is a bigger, fatter, slower animal like the grey squirrel, that is easier to catch as it is too heavy to get to the ends of the twigs of the tree, then that is what it will prefer to catch. As pine martens spread south their range is meeting the grey squirrel spreading north and in these areas grey squirrels are declining.
As paper showing the details of the initial research can be found here but more research is being carried out to exactly what is going on in the marten – squirrel wars.


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