The future of the Pine marten in the UK

Before humans started cutting down the forests of the UK, the pine marten was likely one of the most common carnivores in the UK. This voracious arboreal hunter is the reason that our resident squirrel is so acrobatic – these skills would likely be tested every day.

Indeed, pine martens are less widely spread in the USA which is likely one of the reasons that grey squirrels are so incapable of surviving alongside pine martens. Thus, in the UK we have this perverse situation within the UK, where the only refuge of the red squirrel (apart from small islands which can be cleared more easily) are areas of the country where pine martens also survive on.

Is the day coming where a walking

In the UK, it has been long known that pine martens survive in Scotland. Protection of their forests must improve if we are to hold onto them for longer.

Continue reading “The future of the Pine marten in the UK”

Wrong assumption about red squirrel once again?

Food sources in conifer plantations tend to be smaller, limited to small cones and such like. As such, this suited the smaller red squirrel more than the invasive grey. However this has recently been thrown into doubt.

Where as, in broadleaf tree plantations there are a variety of food sources for pine martens and so red squirrels will not be exclusively predated, in conifer forests with less food to find red squirrels are hunted more often.

This research is based on 5 years of observations from the public and camera traps. It was carried out in northern Ireland, and looked at pine martens red and grey squirrels.

In natural woodlands there is a diverse range of prey and plenty of refuges for red squirrels, however in conifer plantations pine martens will eat far more squirrels because there is little else for it to find.

We therefore need to stop replacing large areas of natural wood with plantations.

If this is true, then the pine marten has even more pressure on it, as it must drive the grey squirrel out so reds can survive. A recent study of grey squirrels dna shows that the UK population relies far more on humans. Far from colonising the country they appear to have been moved by humans and installed in new parts of the country on many occasion. One example, showed this by the fact that the grey squirrels around Aberdeen appear to have originated with the population around the new forest.

Maybe the British red squirrel is not doomed on mainland britain?

There are few animals more loved than the native red squirrel, yet in the UK we have watched its gradual decline since the non-native grey introduction

At the moment, red squirrels still survive in reasonable numbers up in Scotland. It is not that grey squirrels out compete red ones, but that they carry an illness which kills red squirrels very fast.

Continue reading “Maybe the British red squirrel is not doomed on mainland britain?”

France – Alps

The French Alps

The French Alps cover an area of 38,000 square km, or just over 15,000 square miles. As with many other European countries, France has not been happy to share its space with predators, and so all were exterminated by the the second world war

The French Alps border the Alps from many other country and has a result wildlife from the rest of the alps has been able to spread. Back in the 1995 some of the Italian wolves started migrating across the border,  On this occasion the wolves set up a territory and became established. Over the next 25 years the wolves have increased dramatically so that now there are between 500 and 600 living in the french alps. While they have been expanding far into France the core consisting of 50% of their population is still in the French Alps.

A view of the French Alps

There are no bears in the french alps, they still exist further south in Italy, as well as in the Dinarac alps that run from northern Italy, east and south into the Balkans down to Albania in the South East. It is therefore possible that they will return on their own in time, and given a young dispersing bear can cover large distances, it is always possible for them to return. The important thing is to remember that this is prime bear habitat, and that it is therefore highly likely that one day they will be back.

However, apart from the returning wolves there are now a few lynx that live wild within parts of the French Alps.There are other mountain ranges that lie close by which host more lynx, however I have listed them separately. While lynx tourism is a fantastic boost to the country, it should be noted that lynx are incredibly shy and so are not seen often. This shouldn’t detract from the interest though as their impact on the ecosystem is very clear. When walking in areas with animals like lynx, looking for signs of their presence can be a rewarding pass time – particularly with young children who are unlikely to have the patience to see the animal assuming it will appear anyway. Tracks and droppings are often not to hard to find.

Different parts of the French alps have different levels of human presence. If you are looking for wilderness, the Southern french alps are one of the wildest regions of western europe.

Chamois mouflon and marmots are common here as well as roe deer.


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The French Alps cover a large area, and the wildlife is pretty wide spread.  Unfortunately often to see wild animals in their native habitat you need a mix of luck and patience with a little knowledge mixed in. As we make links these will appear below the news section below.

Back to the France page 

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