Mammalian Biology

, Volume 77, Issue 5, pp 351–357 | Cite as

Pine marten (Martes martes) distribution and abundance in Ireland: A cross-jurisdictional analysis using non-invasive genetic survey techniques

  • Declan O’MahonyEmail author
  • Catherine O’Reilly
  • Peter Turner
Original Investigation


On the Island of Ireland, pine martens (Martes martes) exist at the western edge of their global geographic range in the least forested region of Europe. The species has undergone substantial declines in abundance and distribution during the 20th century. Here, we report on the first cross-jurisdictional (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) survey that aimed to investigate current pine marten distribution, assess any recent historical change and provide preliminary estimates of population abundance.

A standardised non-invasive survey technique that used scat-based transect surveys and DNA analysis to confirm scat identity was deployed in 258 10km national grid squares during 2005–2007. In the Republic of Ireland, an occupancy rate of 59.6% was found. Comparisons with historical data indicated that a range expansion of pine marten had occurred over the last 30 years. Indicative core population range extended to over 50% of the land area with population abundance estimates of 2740 individuals.

In Northern Ireland, an occupancy rate of 56.7% was determined with the population largely concentrated in western areas. There was little or no evidence of any recent expansion from core population areas (18% of land area) despite recent increases in forest cover and full legal protection. Population abundance estimates of 320 emphasise the critical requirement for action to conserve this species.

The pine marten is one of the rarest wildlife species in Ireland and, based on our studies, an evidenced based conservation strategy that promotes a sustainable future for the species needs to be developed.


Martes martes Animal distribution Non-invasive survey Abundance Conservation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aubry, K.B., Lewis, J.C., 2003. Extirpation and reintroduction of fishers (Martes pen-nanti) in Oregon: implications for their conservation in the Pacific states. Biol. Conserv. 114, 79–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Austin, M.P., 2002. Spatial prediction of species distribution: an interface between ecological theory and statistical modelling. Ecol. Model. 157, 101–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balestrieri, A., Ruiz-González, A., Remonti, L., Gómez-Moliner, B.J., Genovese, S., Gola, L., Prigioni, C., 2008. A non-invasive genetic survey of the pine marten (Martes martes) in the western River Po plain (Italy): preliminary results Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 19, 77–80.Google Scholar
  4. Balestrieri, A., Remonti, L., Ruiz-González, A., Gómez-Moliner, B.J., Vergara, M., Prigioni, C., 2010. Range expansion of the pine marten (Martes martes) in an agricultural landscape matrix (NW Italy). Mamm. Biol. 75, 412–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balharry, E.A., McGowan, G.M., Kruuk, H., Halliwel, E., 1996. Distribution of Pine Martens in Scotland as Determined by Field Survey and Questionnaire. SNH Survey and Monitoring Report No. 48. Scottish Natural Heritage, Edinburgh, UK.Google Scholar
  6. Barka, I., 2005. Winter distribution of European pine marten (Martes martes) scats in a protected area of Galicia, Spain. Mammalia 69, 435–438.Google Scholar
  7. Birks, J.D.S., Messenger, J.E., Braithwaite, A.C., Davison, A., Brookes, R.C., Strachan, C., 2004. Are scat surveys a reliable method for assessing distribution and population status of pine martens? In: Harrison, D.J., Fuller, A.K., Proulx, G. (Eds.), Martens and Fishers (Martes) inHuman-altered Environments: AnInternational Perspective. Springer, New York, pp. 235–252.Google Scholar
  8. Bright, P.W., Harris, S., 1994. Reintroduction of the pine marten: feasibility study. Engl. Nat. Contract Rep.Google Scholar
  9. Buckland, S.T., Elston, D.A., 1993. Empirical models for the spatial distribution of wildlife. J. Appl. Ecol. 30, 478–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buskirk, S.W., 1992. Conserving circumboreal forests for martens and fishers. Con-serv. Biol. 6, 318–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carroll, C., Zielinski, W.J., Noss, R.F., 1999. Using presence-absence data to build and test spatial habitat models for the fisher in the Klamath region. USA Conserv. Biol. 13, 1344–1359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clevenger, A.P., 1993. The European Pine Marten Martes martes in the Balearic Islands, Spain. Mamm. Rev. 23, 65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. DAFF, 2008. Irish Forests—A Brief History. Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Dublin, Ireland.Google Scholar
  14. Davison, A., Birks, J.D.S., Brookes, R.C., Braithwaite, A.C., Messenger, J.E., 2002. On the originoffaeces: morphological versus molecular methods for surveying rare carnivores from their scats. J. Zool. 257, 141–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Deane, C.D., 1952. Pine marten in counties Tyrone and Down. Ir. Nat. J. 10, 303.Google Scholar
  16. EPA, 2006. Environment in Focus 2006: Environmental Indicators for Ireland. Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland.Google Scholar
  17. Erb, J., 2008. Distribution and Abundance of Wolves in Minnesota 2007–2008. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Grand Rapids, MN.Google Scholar
  18. Fairley, J., 2001. A Basketful of Weasels. Privately Published, Belfast, Northern Ireland.Google Scholar
  19. Field, S., Tyre, A., Possingham, H., 2005. Optimizing allocation of monitoring effort under economic and observational constraints. J. Wildl. Manage. 69, 473–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. FS, 2010. Forest Statistics 2010: Woodland Areas and Planting. Forest Commission, Britain.Google Scholar
  21. Harris, S., Morris, P., Wray, S., Yalden, D., 1995. A Review of British Mammals: Population Estimates and Conservation Status of British Mammals Other than Cetaceans. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.Google Scholar
  22. Helldin, J.-O., 2000. Population trends and harvest management of pine marten (Martes martes) in Scandinavia. Wildl. Biol. 6, 111–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hughes, D., 1993. Mammal Survey of Five Species: Red Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, Pine Marten, Irish Hare and English Hare. Ulster Wildlife Trust and Forest Service DANI, Crossgar, Northern Ireland.Google Scholar
  24. Jordan, N.R., 2011. A Strategy for Restoring the Pine Marten to England and Wales. Vincent Wildlife Trust.Google Scholar
  25. Kindberg, J., Swenson, H.E., Ericsson, G., Bellemain, E., Miquel, C., Pierre, T., 2011. Estimating population size and trends of the Swedish brown bear (Ursus arctos) population. Wildl. Biol. 17, 114–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. King, A.L.K., 1952. Pine marten in Co. Roscommon. Ir. Nat. J. 10, 321.Google Scholar
  27. Kocher, T.D., Thomas, W.K., Meyer, A., Edwards, S.V., Pääbo, S., Villablanca, F.X., Wilson, A.C., 1989. Dynamicsofmitochondrial DNA evolution in animals: amplification and sequencing with conserved primers. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 86, 6196–6200.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lindström, E.R., Brainerd, S.M., Helldin, J.O., Overskaug, K., 1995. Pine marten-red fox interactions: a case of intraguild predation? Ann. Zool. Fennici. 32, 123–130.Google Scholar
  29. Lockie, J.D., 1964. Distribution and fluctuation of pine marten Martes Martes (L.) in Scotland. J. Anim. Ecol. 33, 349–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ma, Y., Xu, L., 1994. Distribution and conservation of sables in China. In: Buskirk, S.W., Harestad, A.S., Raphael, M.G., Powell, R.A. (Eds.), Martens, Sables, and Fishers: Biology and Conservation. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, pp. 255–261.Google Scholar
  31. Mackenzie, D.I., Nichols, J.D., Hines, J.E., Knutson, M.G., Franklin, A.B., 2003. Estimating site occupancy, colonization, and local extinction when a species is detected imperfectly. Ecology 84, 2200–2207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mackenzie, D.L., Royle, J.A., 2005. Designing occupancy surveys: general advice and allocating survey effort. J. Appl. Ecol. 42, 1105–1114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Manly, B.F.J., 1997. Randomization, Bootstrap and Monte Carlo Methods in Biology, second ed. Chapman and Hall, London.Google Scholar
  34. Manley, P.N., Schlesinger, M.D., Roth, J.K., Horne van, B., 2005. A field based evaluation of presence–absence protocol for monitoring ecoregional-scale biodiversity. J. Wildl. Manage. 69, 950–966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marnell, F., Kingston, N., Looney, D., 2009. Ireland Red List No. 3: Terrestrial Mammals. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.Google Scholar
  36. Mowat, G., Paetkau, D., 2002. Estimating marten Martes americana population size using hair capture and genetic tagging. Wildl. Biol. 8, 201–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moriarty, C., 1961. Pine marten, Martes martes (L.), in Co. Wicklow. Ir. Nat. J. 13, 239.Google Scholar
  38. Mullins, J., Statham, M.J., Roche, T., Turner, P.D., O’Reilly, C., 2010. Remotely plucked hair genotyping: a reliable and non-invasive method for censusing pine marten (Martes martes L. 1758) populations. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. 56, 443–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Murray, J.V., Low Choy, S., McAlpine, C.A., Possingham, H.P., Goldizen, A.W., 2008. The importance of ecological scale for wildlife conservation in naturally fragmented environments: a case study of the brush-tailed rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata). Biol. Conserv. 141, 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. O’Mahony, D., 2009. Pine marten (Martes martes) socio-spatial ecology and habitat selection in upland coniferous forests. Report to the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Ireland) and MTUK.Google Scholar
  41. O’Reilly, C., Statham, M., Mullins, J., Turner, P.D.,O’ Mahony, D., 2008. Efficient species identification of pine marten (Martes martes) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) scats using a 5¢ nuclease real-time PCR assay. Conserv. Genet. 9, 735–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. O’Sullivan, P.J., 1983. The distribution of Pine Marten (Martes martes) in the Republic of Ireland. Mamm. Rev. 13, 39–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ozolinš, J., Pilats, V., 1995. Distribution and status of small and medium-sized carnivores in Latvia. Ann. Zoo. Fenni. 32, 21–29.Google Scholar
  44. Pertoldi, C., Madsen, A.B., Barker, S.F., Jørgensen, H., Randi, E., Mun˜oz, J., Baagoe, H., Loeschcke, V., 2008. Spatio-temporal population genetic survey of the Danish pine marten (Martes martes). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 93, 457–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Plumptre, A.J., Kujirakwinja, D., Treves, A., Owiunji, I., Rainer, H., 2007. Trans-boundary conservation in the greater Virunga landscape: its importance for landscape species. Biol. Conserv. 134, 279–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pöysä, H., Milonoff, M., Virtanen, J., 1997. Nest predation in hole-nesting birds in relation to habitat edge: an experiment. Ecography 20, 329–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Proulx, G., Aubry, K.B., Birks, J.D.S., Buskirk, J.S.W., Fortin, C., Frost, H.C., Krohn, W.B., Mayo, L., Monakhov, V., Payer, D., Saiki, M., Santos-Reis, M., Weir, R., Zielinski, W.J., 2004. World distribution and status of the genus Martes in 2000. In: Harrison, D.J., Fuller, A.K., Proulx, G. (Eds.), Martens and Fishers (Martes) in Human-altered Environments: An International Perspective. Springer, New York, pp. 21–76.Google Scholar
  48. Rogers, A.R., 1959. Pine marten, Martes martes (L.) in Co. Down woods. Ir. Nat. J. 13, 42.Google Scholar
  49. Ruiz-González, A., Rubines, J., Berdion, O., Gomez-Moliner, B.J., 2008. A non-invasive genetic methodtoidentify the sympatric mustelids pine marten (Martes martes) and stone marten (Martes foina): preliminary distribution survey on the northern Iberian Peninsula. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. 54, 253–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Shaffer, M.L., 1981. Minimum population sizes for species conservation. Bioscience 31, 131–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sokal, R.R., Rohlf, F.J., 1995. Biometry: The Principles and Practice of Statistics in Biological Research. W.H. Freeman, New York, 887pp.Google Scholar
  52. Sonerud, G.A., 1985. Nest hole shift in Tengmalm’s owl Aegolius funereus as defence against nest predation involving long-term memory in the predator. J. Anim. Ecol. 54, 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Summers, R.W., Willi, J., Selvidge, J., 2009. Capercaillie Tetvao urogallus nest loss and attendance at Abernethy Forest, Scotland. Wildl. Biol. 15, 319–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Strachan, R., Jefferies, D.J., Chanin, P.R.F., 1996. Pine Marten Survey of England and Wales 1987–1988. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, UK.Google Scholar
  55. Stendall, J.A.S., 1946. Pine marten in Ireland. Ir. Nat. J. 8, 332–333.Google Scholar
  56. Stendall, J.A.S., 1947. Pine marten in Co. Down. Ir. Nat. J. 9, 48.Google Scholar
  57. Ruttledge, R.F., 1948. Pine marten in Co. Donegal. Ir. Nat. J. 9, 215–216.Google Scholar
  58. Velander, K.A., 1983. Pine Marten Survey of Scotland, England and Wales, 1980–1982. The Vincent Wildlife Trust, London.Google Scholar
  59. Wegge, P., Kastdalen, L., 2007. Pattern and causes of natural mortality of capercail-lie, Tetrao urogallus, chicks in a fragmented boreal forest. Ann. Zool. Fenn. 44, 141–151.Google Scholar
  60. Webster, J.A., 2001. A review of the historical evidence of the habitat of the Pine Marten in Cumbria. Mamm. Rev. 31, 17–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Woods, J.G., Paetkau, D., Lewis, D., McLellan, B.N., Proctor, M., Strobeck, C., 1999. Genetic tagging of free-ranging black and brown bears. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 27, 616–627.Google Scholar
  62. Zalewski, A., Je˛drzejewski, W., 2006. Spatial organisation and dynamics of pine marten Martes martes population in Białowiez˙a Forest (E. Poland) compared with other European woodlands. Ecography 29, 31–43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Declan O’Mahony
    • 1
    Email author
  • Catherine O’Reilly
    • 2
  • Peter Turner
    • 2
  1. 1.Ecological Management Group, Ormeau Business ParkBelfastUK
  2. 2.Waterford Institute of TechnologyWaterfordRepublic of Ireland

Personalised recommendations