The re-appearance of a little-known woodland animal in the local area is ‘good news’ for other native species, it has been claimed.
There has been an increase in recent months in the recorded number of pine martens in the district.
The small woodland mammal belongs to the same family as weasels, otters, and badgers.
Pine marten sightings have been reported by individuals from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, along with ‘citizen scientists’ from the council area and members of the Glens Red Squirrel Group.
The team have been working alongside scientists from Quercus at QUB over the last few months to help survey woodlands in the Mid and East Antrim area for red squirrels, grey squirrels and pine marten.
The work forms part of a wider Northern Ireland survey funded through the NIEL Challenge Fund and involved over 80 citizen scientists from across the country visiting 160 locations to look for these woodland inhabitants.
Locally, there has been good information gathered on the presence and distribution of the two squirrel species and pine marten has been detected in areas where they were not previously recorded.
Councillor Andrew Wilson, Chair of Mid and East Antrim Operational Committee said: “It is very positive for the biodiversity of Mid and East Antrim that pine martens have been recorded in areas where they previously would have inhabited. Council hope to put this information to good use to help conserve our most vulnerable wildlife such as the red squirrel.”
The information collected by the volunteers will contribute to a wider project looking at the conservation status of pine marten in Northern Ireland. This project has indicated that pine marten numbers have been increasing in various parts of the country thanks to the help of the citizen scientists.
The information has added importance now that increasing pine marten numbers in the Republic of Ireland have been linked to the decline of grey squirrels. Its recovery may therefore be positive news for our once declining red squirrel.
If you would like more information on the project, you can contact the Mid and East Antrim Biodiversity Officer on 0300 1245000, email Maurice.firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Quercus’ Facebook page.