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No matter really, because a search for remaining pine martens is being centered on Worcestershire and Herefordshire and since there are reckoned to be less than 10 left across the whole of the West Midlands it’s a real needle in a haystack job.

Now reckoned to be one of the most elusive and severely threatened of British mammals, the pine marten may venture out for food in the winter weather, so if you are going to spot one now’s a good time.

To that end the Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT), which is based at Eastnor, near Ledbury,
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has received funding from Natural England to gather evidence and information about pine martens before it is too late. It’s appealing to nature lovers and wildlife groups to report sightings or evidence of activity in the county and to telephone with locations and photographs.

A relative of the stoat and the otter, pine martens were once a common woodland animal but habitat loss and historic persecution have resulted in a severe decline of this native species. Numbers in England and Wales are now at worryingly low levels and sightings are extremely rare.

Neil Jordan, who has been appointed pine marten project officer at the VWT, said: “There are probably fewer than 10 individuals in the West Midlands now, although they are likely to avoid contact with humans so it is difficult to be sure.

“We are confident there are more in Northumberland, Cumbria,
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and across mid Wales and Snowdonia, but we are very anxious for local help in building up an accurate picture. We are hoping that in the cold weather one or two might venture out in Worcestershire and Herefordshire.

The project’s grant from Natural England is channelled through the Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund. This year has been designated the International Year of Biodiversity and the Natural History Museum in London recently hosted a press conference. Guests heard Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, press for an urgent response to halt the current unprecedented loss of species.

As well as setting up local survey groups Neil Jordan will be using den box schemes, camera traps and baiting stations to detect pine martens and the data collected will help target future conservation efforts on those locations where numbers of pine martens are still holding on.

Roger Owen, regional director of Natural England,
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said: “We are delighted to begin the International Year of Biodiversity with this important work. The grant will enable the Vincent Wildlife Trust to gather vital information and to encourage nature lovers across the region to contribute.