The Pine Marten | Conservation Status

The pine marten’s rise and fall in Britain

The pine marten arrived in Britain after the last Ice Age, around 10,000 years ago. The extensive woodland cover of the Mesolithic made ideal conditions for the pine marten as a woodland specialist. At this time, pine martens were widespread throughout Britain and the second commonest carnivore, with an estimated population of 147,000.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the pine marten population declined dramatically. This was due both to woodland clearance and to predator control associated with the increase in game shooting. By the early 20th century, pine martens had become extinct in most of southern Britain and were confined to north-west Scotland and some upland areas of northern England, such as the Lake District, the Cheviot Hills, the Pennines and the North York Moors. In Wales, populations survived in areas that included Snowdonia, the Cambrian Mountains and Carmarthenshire. From the 1930s, following a reduction in trapping pressure, pine martens began to recover in Scotland and the population has slowly expanded and re-colonised many parts of its former range. Today, pine martens are found throughout much of northern and central Scotland, as far south as the Central Belt, with some populations present in parts of southern Scotland. In the 1980s, a small number of pine martens were reintroduced to the Galloway Forest in south-west Scotland. However, south of the Scottish border, the situation is markedly different, and the pine marten has not recovered from its historical decline. Today, small numbers of animals persist at low densities, in restricted areas of England and Wales where they were present in the early 20th century. It is likely that these populations are so small that they are highly vulnerable to extinction.