Pine martens (Martes martes) are subject to national and international conservation legislation throughout most of their European range. Yet population density and abundance estimates, which are a key component of effective conservation management, are lacking in many countries. In this study, a large-scale non-invasive survey was undertaken in 14 forested study sites throughout Ireland to assess variation in pine marten density and abundance. Pine marten hair samples were collected in each study site and analysed using genetic techniques to determine individual identity data. Density and abundance estimates were obtained using spatially explicit capture-recapture models and CAPWIRE. Across all study sites, a total of 93 individual pine marten were identified and captured 217 times. Estimated pine marten density varied from 0 to 2.60 individuals per km2 of forested habitat, with all but a single site having estimated densities of ≤1 pine marten per km2 of forest habitat. Mean population abundance estimates across all study sites ranged from 0 to 27 individuals. Spatially explicit capture-recapture models on combined data across all 14 study sites provided a mean density estimate of 0.64 (95% CI 0.49–0.81). Combining this with data on the current distribution and estimated area of forest habitat occupied by the species in Ireland, the total pine marten population abundance of pine marten in Ireland was estimated at 3043 (95% CI 2330–3852) individuals. This research has conducted the largest scale investigation of pine marten density and abundance in any part of its global distribution and provided an improved basis for future population assessment and monitoring of this species.
- Conservation management
- Habitats Directive
- Martes martes
- Spatially explicit capture-recapture