A rare pine marten has been recovered from a roadside between Belper and Ripley – the first confirmed presence of the animal in Derbyshire for 16 years.
The pine marten was once the second most common carnivore in the country – but loss of habitat, the fur industry and culling associated with game shooting has driven the species close to extinction in England.
The last confirmed sighting of a pine marten in the county before this one, according to the Derbyshire Mammals Directory, was in 2002. It was shot by lampers at Baslow and is now a taxidermy specimen on display in Sheffield Museum.
Wildlife photographer Andy Parkinson spotted the latest find and passed on the information which enabled its body to be retrieved by conservationists.
Lizzie Croose, who heads up the Vincent Wildlife Trust’s work with pine martens, has since confirmed it was a male.
Angela Mason, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s head of living landscapes south, said: “This is a fantastic discovery.
“We would love to see pine martens return to Derbyshire.
“Pine martens need woodlands that are well connected and full of a mixture of species and food sources such as small rodents, birds, eggs, insects and fruit in order to thrive.
“We’re working hard to ensure there are more wild places across Derbyshire for these special mammals, especially within the Lower Derwent Valley within reach of where this one was discovered – we hope this will be the first of many!”
Pine martens are about the size of a cat and have chestnut brown fur with a creamy yellow bib overthe throat and chest.
They are related to amimals like weasels, ferrets, polecats and otters.
Male pine martens defend large territories up to 25km-sq and can travel as far as five miles in a single night.
There have been several sightings of pine martens in Derbyshire over the years but little physical or photographic evidence.
They are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and are most commonly found in Scotland.
If you think you have seen a pine marten, please report your sighting to the wildlife trust.
To learn more about pine martens, visit Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s website at www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife-explorer/mammals/pine-marten