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vickylizzy
10th August 2009, 10:19 AM
By Victoria Brenan

Last updated 13:53, Friday, 07 August 2009

The hunt for one of England’s rarest animals has stepped up a gear in the Lake District.

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A pine marten

The elusive pine marten – a member of the weasel family – has been spotted more than 100 times in the Lakes over the last 14 years, making it one of the UK’s key sites.

Parts of Cumbria have been identified as pine marten hotspots – particularly Grizedale Forest, the Rusland Valley and Ennerdale – and the county is being targeted as part of a project by the Vincent Wildlife Trust.

Prospects for Pine Martens is now looking for support from people in Cumbria to help identify the remaining pine marten populations.

Communities are asked to join in with surveys or to sponsor a camera-trap, which uses food as a lure for the pine marten to be caught on camera.

The project, funded by Natural England, has also set up what they call a ‘hot pursuit’ approach which involves staff racing to the location of a possible sighting at short notice and organising an intensive short-term survey.

They hope that local communities will also become involved in fast response surveys, including monitoring droppings, and hair-tube surveys.

Neil Jordan, the VWT’s Cumbria-based pine marten project manager, said: “This will be a really good way of expanding our survey effort across multiple ‘hotspot’ areas, by engaging local people and communities in pine marten monitoring and conservation issues on their patch.”

Pine martens are native to the UK and are believed to have been here for around 9,000 years. The clearing of woodland and trapping of the animals led to them becoming almost extinct by 1800.

Small populations survived in Wales and in areas of northern England, with relatively strong populations surviving in some parts of the Scottish Highlands.

“An ideal volunteer surveyor for this part of the project will be someone who walks an area regularly and is keen to help,” Mr Jordan added.

“In this way we will increase the chances of finding positive signs because the surveyors will know the area well and be able to conduct more regular searches.”

Sightings of pine martens can be reported to a new website set up to track the animals at http://www.pinemarten.info or by calling 01531 636441.

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