Forestry England has announced the successful return of the pine marten to the New Forest after decades of absence.

Pine martens, a cat-sized member of the weasel family, were once widespread across the UK before habitat loss and persecution left only small and fragmented populations, mostly in northern England, Scotland, and parts of Wales.

The successful repopulation of the species in the area was confirmed after Forestry England and Wild New Forest launched a three-year study in the area following reports of public sightings of the creature.

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Thirty hidden cameras were installed in 11 different parts of the New Forest and conservationists analysed more than 1,000 hours of footage, allowing them to determine that the pine marten has returned to the entire forest.

Video clips captured in 2023 clearly show the presence of kits and young pine martens that help to confirm breeding is taking place. The cameras also recorded the presence of other key species of wildlife in the Forest including pole cats, another rare but returning creature.

Leanne Sargeant, senior ecologist for Forestry England, said: “We are absolutely delighted to confirm that pine martens have returned to the New Forest and can be found in so many areas. The nation’s forests provide such important areas for wildlife to thrive and expand and the New Forest is doing just that for these special creatures. Now we know they are here and breeding, our next step is to try and estimate the size of the population and how they are using the New Forests ancient woodlands.”