Pine Marten Rehabilitation
& Post Release Monitoring Project

Rescue & Rehabilitation

After three orphaned pine martens Martes martes, were rescued in Mayo, Wildlife Rehablitation Ireland, in association with many other individuals and organisations, is facilitating a post-release survival study of two of the martens to see how they fare back in the wild, and learn more about this elusive mammal.

pine martens with dead mother

© Gavin Fennesy

Thousands of rehabilitated wildlife casualties and captive-reared orphans are released back to the wild each year. Release is often equated with success and very little is known about the post-release survival of rehabilitated wildlife.
This project is to monitor the post-release survival of two orphaned pine marten kits. Pine martens are listed in Annexes II and IV of the habitat directive as a species of European interest. Also listed in Appendix III of the Bern Convention as a species requiring protection, and in Ireland the species is protected under the Wildlife Act 1976.
We believe that the rehabilitation and release of these pine martens serves a useful conservation purpose and is also justified from an animal welfare perspective. This will be Ireland’s first ever post-release monitoring project of a rehabilitated wildlife species, using radio telemetry.

shannon with fish

shannon under log

© Padraig Farrell

© Padraig Farrell

These pine marten kits were found on the 5th of June 2012 just outside Castlebar, Co Mayo. They are from a litter of kits spotted on the side of the road as they suckled on the body of their dead mother who had been killed by a car. The kits were successfully trapped over the course of the night by a local NPWS Ranger Cameron Clotworthy and NPWS contractor Padraig Farrell.

weighing time

3 baby martens on arrival

© Dan Donoher
© Dan Donoher

At only 8 weeks of age the kits were taken to a wildlife rehabilitator in Kildare Animal Foundation (; Dan Donoher, who reared them initially on a milk substitute then on a mixed diet of dead day-old chicks and quail, fruit, insects, raw eggs, and small dead rodents.

climbing practice

    marten on branch

© Dan Donoher
© Dan Donoher


climbing marten

climbing martens

For the second stage of their rehabilitation they have been moved to a larger enclosure in a forested site in Co Mayo to prepare them for release. This new enclosure has been filled with small trees for them to practice climbing, and vegetation for them to learn how to search for insects and perhaps catch a visiting rodent!

constructing marten cage

soft release cage Mayo

At the end of August they will be weighed to see if they are fit for release, two of them will be fitted with a radio tracking collar, and in early September they will be given a ‘soft-release’ i.e. the cage will be opened but they will continue to be supplied discreetly with supplementary food until they are fully independent and have left the cage area altogether.

From the day they are released their whereabouts will be monitored as they will be radio tracked on a daily basis. The radio collars are fitted with an activity sensor and a mortality sensor so we can accurately monitor their progress, check that they remain in good health, and enable us to find out more about the habits of this elusive species.

constructing marten cage

soft release cage Mayo

We hope to have two students from the Institute of Technology, Sligo, who will be assessing the range dynamics and size and the animals' movement patterns. They will identify the areas the martens spend most of their time after they have settled and their range has stabilised. Then, within their range, the students will be looking at habitat and resource selection, and factors that give rise to their range size. These answers are very important in informing our knowledge of what pine martens do in this type of habitat. The martens’ survival will provide proof that the rehabilitation process was justified and can be considered successful.


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SECOND Radio Tracking Workshop Report

The second VHF Radio Tracking Workshop organised by WRI took place in Newport, Co. Mayo
on the 13th October 2012.

Participants from various backgrounds were in attendance making it an interesting day with lots of discussion, sharing of knowledge and experience.

Dr Derek Mcloughlin started the day with a power point presentation on the different methods and equipment used when tracking wildlife. Participants were shown samples of how data was obtained and used in previous projects. Other topics discussed were ethics and various challenges that may arise during such tracking projects. Reasons for tracking animals and what various organisations may do with the information gathered was also highlighted during the morning session.

pine marten cage

Emma Sheehy tracking

The afternoon session covered the practical side of the workshop. This took place in Letterkeen forest where two collared pine marten were released as part of a post release survey in recent months.
Attendees got an opportunity to test their tracking skills during the afternoon. Both pine martens were located during the session and each tracker got a chance to use the equipment in different types of terrain. Participants also got the opportunity to visit the release cage where the pine martens were located before and during the release process.


A variety of scat samples were located and some of them were provisionally identified as pine marten scats. The samples were collected and have been sent for formal identification. Results from these scats are pending. Some of the participants were skilled in identifying scats and were on hand to offer advice and tips to others interested in identifying different types of scat.

scat samples


by Carmel O'Dwyer



FIRST Radio Tracking Workshop Report

The Pine Marten tracking team are now trained in the basics of radio telemetry.  On the 18th of August 2012 we ran the first Radio Tracking Workshop, where Pine Marten Project volunteers and other wildlife researchers, professionals and enthusiasts had an opportunity to learn hands-on how to use the VHF tracking equipment.

Derek McLoughlin teaching

VHF class

The course was led by Dr Derek McLoughlin, a Mayo-based consultant ecologist and a lecturer in Sligo IT, who has pioneered the research on Twite (small native finch of the countryside, now one of our rarest breeders) in Ireland, using radio-telemetry.  The class-based part of the training covered the practicalities of radio tracking of wild animals, the kind of data that can be gathered with this method, its uses in ecological research and how it will be applied in the Pine Marten Project.  This was followed by the field training session, where every participant gained hands-on experience tracking in the wild.

VHF class volunteers

VHF training

The volunteer team is excited and ready to follow the fosterlings discreetly in their pawsteps and monitor their progress, as soon the animals are released in mid September.

by Aleksandra Borawska




Radio Collars fitted

On Saturday the 8th of September two of the three martens were fitted with radio-transmitter collars.
The two males also had a pre-release health check.

In anticipation of the visit to the vet, Padraig Farrell (contractor for NPWS who was involved in catching the martens) laid out three baited traps in the martens’ enclosure. The animals were not fed the day before, so that they would be hungry enough to take an interest in the bits of meat, fish, eggs, peanut butter and jam left in the traps as bait.

Early the next morning, Emma Higgs and Andrew Kelly of WRI arrived to find two of the martens trapped, but nonetheless relaxed and quiet. They were taken to the Veterinary Surgery in Westport, where vets Killian and Naomi Ó Mórín were ready to receive the animals.

Vet Killian

marten in trap

Dan Donoher from Kildare Animal Foundation, who reared the martens, arrived with his volunteer Brid to help with the handling and to see the martens for the last time. A number of radio-tracking volunteers also came to see the animals fitted with collars.

marten under GA

Dan with marten

The vet applied a reversible sedation to the two mustelids, whose wild tempers and natural aggression were now making them difficult to handle. Isoflurane gas was administered via a mask in order to keep them asleep while the collars were fitted and during the health check. It turned out that both were male! The female who didn’t get trapped must have been too clever…

collar fitting

collar fitted

Hair samples were taken for DNA analysis, and all three martens were already micro-chipped. The two males were in good health, although one had to have his tail clipped and cleaned of a few old scabs.

Naomi clipping marten

teeth examination

weighing marten

final check

Back in their Letterkeen forest enclosure, the martens, now sporting their VHF-collars, sprang energetically from the carrier and up the branch, straight into their sleeping box and out of sight.

by Aleksandra Borawska




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Tracking the Martens

Tue 4th December - Marten 2 CAUGHT !!

Extensive searching for the elusive second pine marten resulted in success; he was tracked to a location just NE of the cage site and again Padraig Farrell and a trusty tin of sardines managed to seduce our marten into a trap !

Marten 2 in trap

M2 with collar in trap - D. McLoughlin

Derek McLoughlin was out tracking with Padraig at the time and managed a quick photo of M2 in the trap before he was taken to the vet clinic in Westport where Killian Ó Mórín sedated the marten and removed his collar.
After being given a clean bill of health M2 was released back into his forest later that night.


Marten tracking update

Click HERE to read Michael Viney's article
in the Irish Times (6th Oct 2012) on the pine marten project

Thur 15th November - Marten 1 CAUGHT !!

Trap baited and set in the morning by Padraig Farrell and Betty Walsh in the area where the martens were last located. Padraig checked the trap at 8pm the same evening and found M1 in the trap!

Padraig took the marten to the vet in Westport where Killian Ó Mórín sedated the marten before removing the collar and giving the marten a full health check.
After being given a clean bill of health M1 was released back into his forest. The search is now on for M2..


Sun 4th Nov

Marten tracking update

Strong signal from mature coniferous forest
Trackers: Betty & Neachtan

Wed 24th Oct

Marten tracking update

Very strong signal from M1 active in mixed conifers. Very weak signal from M2 in the same area.
Trackers: Eddie

Sun 21st Oct

Marten tracking update

Very strong signal from M1 resting in scrub. M2 - No signal on channel 2. Weak signal received when switched to Channel 8. Strong signal from mature coniferous forest on Channel 8 of active M2 at 7pm.
Trackers: Betty & Neachtan

Sat 20th Oct

Marten tracking update

M1 initially resting in scrub/young coniferous forest then became active in the scrub. M2 - Very weak signal received. Expected to get a stronger signal here as this location is bearing 040 from where the weak signal is being transmitted from. There was no reciprocal signal going back to the weak transmission location either. Further tracking in the wider area using car did not get any signal.
Trackers: Betty, Neachtan & Padraig

Fri 19th Oct

Marten tracking update

M1 resting in scrub/young coniferous forest. M2 - walking and car tracking did not produce a signal. Went to grid location of previous day’s sightings but no signal picked up.
Trackers: Betty & Neachtan

Thur 18th Oct

Marten tracking update

M1 - using car mounted aerial we heard a brief signal while driving in. Using directional aerial he was resting in the conifer block. M2 - we were driving around using the mounted aerial when we picked him up, then switched to directional aerial. We had the strongest signal when we pointed the aerial out over the clear fell area (which has good ground cover and is adjacent to the conifer block) when standing on the raised area at the edge of the road, just up from the set of information stands.
Trackers: Kate & Oisin

Sun 14th Oct

Marten tracking update

M1 very strong signal in the vicinity of the bothy. M2 - no signal.
Trackers: Ger

Sat 13th October

Today marks the one month anniversary of the release and successful survival in the wild of two rehabilitated orphan pine martens. They have been tracked on a daily basis and the martens’ rehabilitation has been proven worthwhile as they have successfully re-integrated into the wild population!
A huge thanks to all involved; to the rescuers, rehabilitator, and the dedicated group of volunteers who are going out every day to monitor their progress in the wild.

Sun 7th Oct

Marten tracking update

M2 resting in Peatland scrub & young coniferous. M1 resting in Mature coniferous
Trackers: Padraig & Betty

Fri 5th Oct

Marten tracking update

After doing multiple readings M1 & M2 signals came from an area N of Jamsies Well Road plantation
Trackers: Padraig & Betty

Wed 3rd Oct

Marten tracking update

M2 in in scrub at lane crossing. M1 resting in conifer forest west of clearing.
Trackers: Eddie & Laoise

Tue 2nd Oct

Marten tracking update

M2 in Conifer Woods opposite layby. On the move; very strong signal but moving further into heavy cover. M1 resting in clearing next to conifer forest.
Trackers: Eddie & Laoise

Wed 26th Sept

Marten tracking update

M1 in forest across the river from the bothy, then later active still up in mature scrub near the cage. M2 active in scrub on hillside again.
Trackers: Alex & Barry

Tue 25th Sept

Marten tracking update

M2 active in the scrub/forest on the hillside. M1 in Mature conifer forest across the road from the cage, slightly towards the South.
Trackers: Alex & Barry

Mon 24th Sept

Marten tracking update

Both active early evening in mature forest
Trackers: Cameron

Sun 23rd Sept

Marten tracking update

Signals from both animals were clear and positions were easy to triangulate from positions on upper track, however signals were jumbled and weak when positioned on river valley floor closer to animal's estimated positions.
Trackers: Cameron & Ger

Sat 22nd Sept

Marten tracking update

When out tracking again today I had a strong signal from M1 just below the cage and where we picked him up yeaterday. In relation to M2 I was able to observe him sitting in a tree and looking in good condition. He was in the mature woods in one of the large trees just beside the river.
Trackers: Ger & Padraig

Marten tracking update

Photo of Marten 2 sleeping in a tree! Tracked and photographed by Ger Rogan

Thur 20th Sept

Marten tracking update

M1 was in dense coniferous forest. A strong signal so we went deeper into the woods and got a good signal but couldn’t pursue the signal as much as we would have liked as the terrain was difficult. No signal from M2.
Trackers: Catherine, Edel & Ralph

Wed 19th Sept

Marten tracking update

M1 in conifer woodlands. The signal did vary so assuming the animal was on the move, but not covering any great distance. Nothing picked up on M2, although we spent quite a bit of time at the two previous locations at which it had been found.
Trackers: Laoise, Eddie & Kate

Tue 18th Sept

Marten tracking update

M1 in mature foresty. M2 appeared to move several times during tracking before final resting location was pinpointed. Exact location was pinpointed to resting position under two large fallen pines on valley floor just southwest of juncture of Goulaun and Altaconey rivers.
Trackers: Conor

Mon 17th Sept

Marten tracking update

M1 is in mature foresty to south west in block of mature trees south of road. Very poor signal from M2, think he is 50m south of layby in tree clump to the west of the track.
Trackers: Maurice & Cameron

Sun 16th Sept

Marten tracking update

M1 located within mature conifer plantation. M2 - did not pick up any signal on this individual. Used both antennas at numerous locations.
Trackers: David & Robert

Sat 15th Sept

Marten tracking update

Martens seemed good today. Different positions to previous days. Marten 2 has left the cage and is now about 1km east of it.
Trackers: Derek, Rowan, Conor & Padraig

Fri 14th Sept

Marten tracking update

Marten 1 in same position as yesterday, south of track in small clump of forestry. Marten 2 in nest box in soft release enclosure.
Trackers: Derek, Rowan, Conor & Padraig

Thur 13th Sept

Marten tracking update

Both animals were located eventually. Marten 1 was most-likely foraging in a pre-thicket plantation alongside a stand of mature coniferous trees. This animal seemed to be very active between 13:30 and 16:20 while we were tracking. The second animal confused us a lot as it remained in the nest box in the holding cage. This distorted & weakened the radio tracking signal quite a bit. All in all it's an excellent area for tracking in & there are ample suitable vantage points from the forest tracks.
Trackers: Derek & Cameron


Pine Marten Project update13th Sept 2012


The three martens left their enclosure on Thursday evening, and now every day we wait excitedly to find out if our volunteer trackers manage to find them, and what the Martens have been up to since the previous day..


Click HERE to to hear about the pine marten project on Mooney Goes Wild


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Thank you List

Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland wants to sincerely thank all the individuals and organisations below for all the invaluable parts they have played in this pine marten project.

Gavin Fennessy

Padraig Farrell
Cameron Clotworthy - NPWS

Gavin Fennessy
Cathy Griffin - ISPCA
Dan Donoher
Bríd Gallagher
Andrew Kelly

Rehabilitation Advice
Colin Seddon - Scottish SPCA
Rob Scrivens - RSPCA

WRI Coordination
Emma Higgs
Clyde Hutchinson

Dan Donoher - Kildare Animal Foundation

Soft Release Cage
Tony - Cill Dara Animal Compounds Ltd
Martina Nolan

Feeding in the forest site
Bríd Colhoun
Robert O'dwyer

Adam Grogan - RSPCA
Andrew Kelly – RSPCA
Sarah Levett  – Biotrack

Radio Tracking Equipment
Henry Schofield - Vincent Wildlife Trust
Kate McAney - Vincent Wildlife Trust
Colin Morris - Vincent Wildlife Trust

Naomi & Killian Ó Mórín – Westport, Co Mayo - fitted collars
Rachael Gordon - Animals First Veterinary Clinic, Co Kildare

Radio Tracking Instructor
Derek McLoughlin

VHF Gear Storage
Irene O'Brien

VHF Rota
Carmel O’Dwyer

Radio Tracking Volunteers
Adam Grogan
Aleksandra Borawska
Avril Hanbidge
Barry Ryan
Betty Walsh
Brian Meehan
Cameron Clotworthy
Carmel O’Dwyer
Catherine Burke
Conor Ryan
Dave Fabby
David McNicholas
Derek McLoughlin
Eddie Berry
Edel Sheerin
Emma Sheehy
Feargal O'Dowd
Ger Rogan
James Kilroy
Kate McAney
Laoise Kelly
Maurice McDonnell
Mick Hogan
Neachtan Walsh
Oisin Duffy
Padraig Farrell
Ralph Twomey
Robert O'dwyer
Sarah Ward
Sorcha Dolan
Wendy Stringer

Keith Bourke - Western People
Michael Viney - Irish Times
Áine McMahon - Irish Times
Paula Leavy-McCarthy -
Mayo Co Council
IT Sligo Twitter
Ocean FM
Mooney Goes Wild
Gerry Kelly - LMFM


Pine Marten Project 2011

Not forgetting the fact that we tried all of this in 2011 but were outsmarted by the pine marten who decided on his own release date before he'd been fitted with a radio tracking collar!

Finder & Rehabilitator

Rehabilitation Advice
Colin Seddon - Scottish SPCA

Soft Release Cage
Tony - Cill Dara Animal Compounds Ltd
Martina Nolan

Feeding in the forest site
Eva Ellis – ISPCA

Adam Grogan - RSPCA
Andrew Kelly – RSPCA
Sarah Levett  – Biotrack

Radio Tracking Equipment
Henry Schofield - Vincent Wildlife Trust
Kate McAney - Vincent Wildlife Trust

Radio Tracking Instructor
Declan O' Mahony

Radio Tracking Volunteers
Tríona Finnen - NPWS
Emmet McGlone
Lorraine Bull
Niamh Sullivan
Roseanne Merriman
Conall Hawkins




Cill Dara Animal Compounds


Vincent Wildlife Trust





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