Pine martens could be brought back to the Forest of Dean (FoD) to control the grey squirrel population causing harm to woodlands. Surveys suggest widespread support for this, and there will be a wider consultation. A two-year study concluded that the FoD would provide the perfect environment for Britain’s rarest mammal and showed that the woodlands could support a population of around 200 pine martens.

Conservationists are putting together a lottery bid for a project to put 60 pine martens into the Forest as a natural way to control the grey squirrels which prey on other wildlife and damage trees. In other areas of the UK, this allows endangered red squirrels to thrive, but in the FoD grey squirrels attack native broadleaved trees like beech, oak and sweet chestnut, as well as eating bulbs and seeds in large quantities. Bringing them back to the Forest follows the recent re-introduction of beavers in Lydbrook for flood control.

There has been opposition from farmers in areas where pine martens live already, with some calling for a cull of the creatures.

Dr Andrew Stringer, pine marten project manager, said: “Pine martens are a native species that were almost wiped out in Victorian times, and they play a really important part in restoring ecological balance. They are also a joy to watch and could bring more tourists to the area. We’re asking local people how they’d like to be involved with a potential reintroduction. There many different ways, such as den-box building, radio tracking and population monitoring. ”

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