GWCT takes aim at Scottish pine martens

Pine Marten Gary FaulknerThe GWCT are at it again. First they wanted buzzards and sparrowhawks added to the Scottish General Licences to allow the legal killing of these protected species in order to protect non-native gamebirds bred and released in their millions for leisure shooting. Then they went for the legal ‘removal’ of hen harriers from English grouse moors to protect artificially-high stocks of red grouse for leisure shooting. Now their plan to ‘remove’ pine martens from several Scottish forests, under the guise of a ‘research trial’, has been leaked.

Their ‘plan’ is to ‘remove’ 120 pine martens (a highly protected species that is recovering from persecution) from four forests in Strathspey, including inside the Cairngorms National Park, over a six-year period to see whether their ‘removal’ has any affect on the breeding success of Capercaillie. The plan suggests that the martens could be killed but a ‘translocation’ to other areas would be preferable. Conservationists have called the plan ‘deeply flawed’.

The story has been published by environmental journalist Rob Edwards and can be read here, including a copy of the GWCT’s ‘plan’.

We’ve got a bit more to add to this story. A freedom of information request has revealed some interesting facets. It seems that GWCT has been pushing this proposal for some time, in discussion with SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland and Cairngorms National Park Authority. The RSPB has ruled itself out of any involvement. There has been a lot of unease about the GWCT’s proposed methods amongst SNH, FCS and CNPA and also the likely adverse publicity that this ‘trial’ would generate.

GWCT has been told that licences to permit the killing of pine martens are unlikely to be supported, and also licences to permit the live-trapping of pine martens during the lactation period (15 March-31 July) are unlikely to be supported on animal welfare grounds. However, SNH suggested that the martens could be live-trapped BEFORE mid-February to avoid catching them before they become pregnant!

It’s also revealed that the Vincent Wildlife Trust are ‘not receptive’ to hosting translocated pine martens, which basically scuppers the GWCT’s proposal because they had been relying on the VWT’s cooperation.

The original plan was to start live-trapping pine martens in early 2015. However, SNH has put the brakes on and has asked GWCT for an extended development plan before the research proposal can be considered further. SNH has said they probably won’t consider the experimental removal of pine martens before the start of 2016 at the earliest.

Here are the FoI documents:

Information Request 1

Information Request #1 includes various versions of GWCT’s proposal, including comments from SNH; RSPB Scotland’s position statement on the trial; the Mammal Society’s position statement on the trial (and that is really worth a read!); and some email correspondence.

Information Request 2

Information Request #2 includes a letter from SNH to GWCT outlining what needs to be done before the proposal will be further considered; and a summary of GWCT’s baseline data collected in 2014. There are a few pages of redacted information but these relate to Capercaillie locations so it’s understandable that they should remain undisclosed.

Information Request 3

Information Request #3 includes a series of emails (many reproduced in the other information notes) and minutes from a meeting held on 2nd October 2014 between GWCT, SNH, FCS and CNPA. There’s also confirmation that the Vincent Wildlife Trust are ‘unreceptive’ to receiving translocated pine martens.

Pine Marten photograph by Gary Faulkner.

29 thoughts on “GWCT takes aim at Scottish pine martens”

  1. Just one big rotten apple to the core, what’s the point of having so-called legally protected wildlife if it’s not going to be protected by the bodies WE employ to protect it. Do what we pay you for SNH, protect our wildlife and the environment, say no not ever to the nasty shooting fraternity, they must live with our wildlife or stop shooting altogether.

    1. SNH was set up as an independent conservation advisor- slowly but surely it has morphed into an organisation who’s aims are to facilitate the destruction of our environment. Buy land.. its the only way to protect it.

      1. Mr Circus…you are only half right..SNH was set up out of the ashes of the NCC [Nature Conservancy Council] the UK government’s nature conservation body. It was destroyed by a Tory minister who objected to his goose shooting marsh being designated a SSSI..and after a lot of similar whingeing by landowners, when the NCC did its job. From the very start the SNH and equivalents in Wales and England have been watching their backs. ..If only we did have an independent nature conservation body!!

  2. Leave our Pine Martins alone. If it had been up to the gamekeepers they would have been extinct in Scotland long ago, Apparently, along with the Wild Cat, Pine Martins only survived because of the 1st world war, when every able bodied man had to go to fight, they were both left alone long enough to recover.

    I for one would strongly fight this proposal by contacting every MP, MSP and MEP that I know. Roll on the Scottish parliament’s proposed land reform act.

  3. Yet again another highly protected NATIVE species of Scotland is being targeted under the banner of ‘conservation’ when we know full well that the big money making shooting business industries are really behind this latest outrageous attack on our natural wildlife . Are they really about to pull the wool over the eyes of SNH yet again and convince them that this latest sickening and outrageous idea is for the benefit of other species and has nothing to do with bumping up numbers of game birds even more for their paying guests to shoot? Who wiped out the Capercaillie in the first place? What a shameful history the game keeping industry has for their slaughter of our native wildlife, some even to extinction.

    As we have recently seen on the SGA sponsored episode of Landward a few days ago, the grouse have bred very well this year and so why the need to control anything? If anything needs to be controlled then it is the behaviour by those countryside criminals who are relentlessly slaughtering our raptors with impunity and evidence found of these crimes being just the tip of a very big iceberg.

    The shooting industry have a history of hiding behind the ‘conservation’ flag which they find a convenient tool when negotiating further destruction of our natural flora and the slaughter of our fauna for their own bloody gains. As these immoral, repugnant and spineless people continue to use conservation in an attempt to get their own way, many of us are still asking the question, why does it continue to be OK for these so called
    ‘conservationists’ to deliberately dump tons of TOXIC lead shot into the countryside every year, as long as
    that poisonous substance comes out of a gun cartridge? Conservationists? What a pitiful lot they all are.

  4. Give me time to read this voluminous material. Once I have done so, we will see whether or not there is any mention of the positive effect that pine martens seem to be having on conservation of the native red squirrel through killing or deterrence of the non-native and invasive grey squirrel. That is where research effort should be concentrated, a point to be made by as many groups and individuals as possible to the Scottish Government, to MSPs and to SNH.

  5. Here is how GWCT describes itself on its website:
    “We are a leading UK charity conducting conservation science to enhance the British countryside for public benefit.”
    Oh, REALLY? Not quite sure how murdering raptors & pine martens benefits the public?
    Why has nobody challenged their use of the words ‘conservation’ & ‘wildlife’ – not to mention their charitable status? I have questioned them repeatedly re their defence of woodcock shooting, despite the fact that some UK woodcock populations are resident and some migratory, and as far as I know, no one REALLY knows the exact status of either. Never got a straight answer. You can’t manage a population sustainably if you’re exploiting migratory/resident parts of it without knowing which you’re hitting. These are the British Trust for Ornithology’s comments re woodcock: Conservation listings:
    Europe: SPEC category 3 (declining)
    UK: amber (European status)
    Long-term trend
    UK: probable rapid decline
    GWCT has the nerve to issue press releases commenting on the threatened status of woodcock, while at the same time promoting slaughter of these birds.
    Hypocrisy on a massive scale. Nauseating.

  6. I suspect wildlife may be in for a respite shortly, as the landed gentry gear up for a big push on resisting land reform. Every dead bird or animal on their lands will be one more bit of evidence in favour of the reform. Its about time the screws were put to them. However, given that some of the big beasts of the mainstream media are involved in the estates, it will be more important than ever for sites like this to get the message out on social media.

  7. The land owners site themselves as the upper echelons of society. But they frequently show that the only thing keeping these scum out of jail is money and power. Corrupt to the core too.

    The sooner we can rid our countryside of these dangerous, predatory and uncaring beings the better.

  8. So called ” conservationists ” at it again. they werent happy enough to wipe out Wolves etc. Wild cats targeted, now marginal numbers. Wild boar. grey squirrels. is there any wild creature that is acceptable to these gun toting killers. accept that capercaille are virtually extinct thanks to the shooting mob. about time Scotland ridded itself of these moronic bloodsports fanatics, and gave nature a chance. more money available from wildlife holidays surely.

  9. I have skimmed through the material obtained through FoI. There is nothing in it about the apparent conservation benefit for native red squirrels through predation by pine martens on the non-native, invasive grey squirrel. One would not have expected that anyway as the subject matter of the whole planned exercise, as revealed now by FoI, is pine martens and capercaillie alone. While I appreciate that pine marten/red squirrel/grey squirrel interaction is only one of a number of key wildlife conservation issues here, I would expand my argument made yesterday thus: it is conceivable that pine martens may prevent grey squirrels from colonising capercaillie habitat if there are enough hardwood trees there (perhaps adjoining areas of Scots Pine) to tempt the grey squirrels in; and if pine martens are removed from such habitat in the supposed interests of capercaillie conservation the scope for pine marten suppression of grey squirrels will have gone, to the possible detriment of the red squirrel population.

  10. It seems that some people (politicians) cannot understand anything other that money! I’m beginning to think that only a revolution can get rid of these people. What makes the world go around is NOT money but gravity; the earth & the universe are what count!

  11. Why not try it? If the aren’t killing the pine martins and are simply relocating them to areas where their are no caper. Simply letting nature ‘ run its course’ evidently isn’t working.

    1. Translocating of almost any type of wildlife is not just mistaken in the is very likely to have a detrimental effect on whatever happens to be native in the “new home”. Attempted translocation of barn owls is a case in point. The very idea of translocation – Ive heard it suggested for peregrines, hen harriers and goshawks too – is just a sop; these folk would be much happier killing the martens but they know the public wouldnt wear it. So they pretend this is a nice cosy solution. Its not, its biological idiocy.

    2. Because the problems Capercaillies are having is pretty much unrelated to predation. They need large areas of mixed pine and broadleaf forests which is not extensively fenced. Conifer plantations and grouse fenced open moors are no good to them. They will be on chronic life support even if every marten, crow, stoat, fox, and anything else you can think of, were removed. To misquote a phrase; it’s the habitat, stupid.

  12. The fact that Pinemartins are a “highly protected” species should mean that any interference is NOT up for discussion or debate of any kind. I am totally sick and tired of greedy selfish people who think only of money at the expense of wildlife. The British wildlife belongs to the whole country not any individual.

  13. How far has the plan now gone, and is amyone organising a petition/protest. We must protect these beautiful creatures.

  14. Perhaps we should celebrate this proposal by CGWT rather than just denounce it. Having looked at the history of the organisation, it does appear that they are really failing to do much for their constituency. It must be difficult to pretend to be a scientific organisation, capable of actually doing good conservation, when you need to be seen to be dancing to the tune of your paymasters. CGWT need to provide science based research and projects to assist, in this case, the shooting lobby, where the pine marten must be an issue, and they would prefer not to be seen to be trapping a protected species wholesale. I was initially thinking of an attack along the lines of Beefy’s claim that RSPB are not really a charity, but that is no more the case with CGWT than it is with the RSPB.
    Looking at it from the point of the scientists at CGWT, one assumes that this scheme is the best they could come up with when they were asked to come up with a scheme for the estates who are killing a lot of protected pine martens in their traps. In that case, we should be celebrating the fact that it is so pitifully poor that any scientist worth his salt could see through it easily. It would be simply unbelievable that SNH would be so stupid as to support it after it is considered, and I don’t believe the politicians or the public in Scotland would be prepared to put up with this if it is pursued further.
    I’m therefore happy that this plan is at the pathetic end of the possible attacks on animal conservation, but remind ourselves that CGWT have the capability to be much more damaging on behalf of their masters.

    1. so you think government wouldnt be daft enough to ignore scientific and public opinion…two words: “badger cull”!

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