The recent article by Rob Edwards (Leaked plan to get rid of pine martens ‘deeply flawed’- Sunday 30 November) had a rather ‘fur better than feather’ feel to it, missing the point of our potential study with its core story of capercaillie decline and the stringent attempt to recover Scottish populations. Indeed the vulnerable, protected capercaillie does not appear in the text until about half way into the article.
Great effort has gone into improving Scottish forest habitat for the ‘horse of the woods’, but the decline still continues. The long-term decline seems to be caused by poor breeding success due to cold, damp weather and high numbers of predators. And studies at RSPB’s Abernethy Forest have shown pine martens to be a significant nest predator.
No one really knows how significant pine marten are in the overall population decline of capercaillie but we, along with partner organisations SNH, FCS and the CNPA, are proposing a project to find out.
There is no plan to lethally control the pine marten population across Scotland. If the research indicates increasing pine martens are a factor in capercaillie declines, translocation efforts may be focussed only on a small area in Strathspey, helping protect 75% of our remaining capercaillie.
This type of intervention is not new to the conservation world.
The pine marten is not in decline in Scotland, it population is in fact increasing. This is good news for the conservation of that species. As with all of nature, fur is no better or worse than feather, balances must be struck and a multi-agency approach to sensitive wildlife management is what we strive for.
Dr Adam Smith
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