Pine marten research starting in the Ring of Gullion
Josh Twining a PhD student at Queen’s University, Belfast, is studying the recovery and ecology of the European pine marten in Ireland. He will be working with the Ring of Gullion Partnership to undertake some research into the secret life of pine martens that live alongside you in the Ring of Gullion. This will be done during the night and in the early morning hours so if you see him or meet him at these times don’t be alarmed. He has a licence to carry out this work and no pinemarten will be harmed by it.
We are interested in looking at habitat suitability of the pine marten in regards to its recovery in Ireland. Pine martens faced severe historical decline and possible extinction up until they were granted protection in the 1980s under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Since then they have been slowly recovering however very little is known about the habitat requirements and ecology of the pine marten due to their rare and elusive nature. When considering over 75% of Northern Ireland’s forest is man-made commercial plantation, it is necessary to evaluate this forest as suitable conservation tool for this recovering predator.
Crom Estate in Fermanagh provides us an example of natural broadleaf woodland to be juxtaposed against our study sites in the Ring of Gullion which are formed of commercial coniferous plantation. This project will involve us live trapping pine martens from November – February in order to identify, measure, comb for parasites and attach collars on them which will allow us to monitor their movement, energy expenditure, and behaviour at the different sites. We do it at this time to avoid the period of the year when mothers may have dependant kits. Animal welfare has been our priority when designing this project. We will be setting the traps in the evening, and checking them at dawn to minimize any time any animal has to spend in traps.
Once the martens have their collars attached, we will be tracking them around the general landscape using VHF technology for approximately 2 weeks, before we attempt to re-trap them, remove their collars and send them on their way.
This work will provide much needed information on the habitat requirements of pine martens, such assessment will enable the project to produce woodland and habitat management strategies for UK and Ireland, and model potential growth and equilibrium level of pine marten populations.
Josh hopes to hold an information event in the coming weeks for a talk on the project, what we are doing and why. More information about the date and location of this event will be provided shortly. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the project, or would like be involved in the research please don’t hesitate to contact the Ring of Gullion team on [email protected].
Josh is looking forward to meeting local people on his travels, and having the pleasure of working in the Ring of Gullion, one of my favourite spots in Ireland.