Mayo ecologists on the trail of the lonesome pine martens
Irish conservation charities, scientists and wildlife groups are jointly monitoring the progress of orphaned and rescued pine martens that have been released into a Mayo woodland.
The pine marten, which is native to Ireland, is a larger cousin of the stoat. The nocturnal animal lives in woodland and is omnivorous.
The litter of pine marten kits was found in a state of distress without their mother by ecologist Gavin Fennessy by a road near Castlebar, Co Mayo.
The eight-week-old kits were taken to a wildlife rehabilitation unit at Kildare Animal Foundation. Their carer, Dan Donoher, reared them on milk substitute, a mixed diet of dead chicks, quail, fruit, insects, raw eggs and small dead rodents.
The kits are now in an enclosure in a Mayo forest to prepare for release into the wild.
Dr Derek McLoughlin and his students from Sligo IT hope to find out how the young cope in their natural environment by studying two of the kits. The animals will be fitted with radio collars and set free later in the month and monitored in the wild.